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and four essays from The Meaning of Truth 



Published by Meridian Books, Inc. November 1955 
First printing, October 1955 
Second printing, May 1956 
Third printing, May 1958 
Fourth printing, December 1958 

Pragmatism copyright 1907 by William James 
First edition, June 1907 
Reprinted twenty-one times 

The Meaning of Truth copyright 1909 by Wfiliam James 
First edition, October 1909 
Reprinted seven times 

First printing of combined edition, 1943 
Reprinted four times 

Reprinted by arrangement with Longmans, Greenvnd Co , Inc. 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-9702 

Editors preface 

The publication of "Pragmatism in 1907 was followed two 
years later by The Meaning of Truth, A Sequel to Pragmatism. 
The latter volume was made up largely of replies to criticisms 
evoked by the former, but it included three essays written 
before Pragmatism which throw an important light on the 
development of the author's thought. With these additions 
the present volume serves as a complete and systematic 
presentation of the doctrine for which it is named. 


Cambridge, Massachusetts 
September i, 1942 

William James 

William James, son of the theologian Henry James, Sr. and 
brother of the novelist Henry James, was born in New York 
in 1842. From 1872 to 1907 he taught at Harvard, moving 
from physiology to psychology and finally to philosophy. 
Jamesian Pragmatism and Radical Empiricism became domi- 
nant influences in American philosophical thought during his 
lifetime and have retained this position to the present day. 
James' major works, in addition to Pragmatism, include The 
Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe, The Varieties 
of Religious Experience, A Pluralistic Universe, and Essays 
in Radical Empiricism. He died in 1910. 





Chesterton quoted, 17. Everyone has a philosophy, 17. Tem- 
perament is a factor in all philosophizing, 19. Rationalists and 
empiricists, 20. The tender-minded and the tough-minded, 22. 
Most men wish both facts and religion, 24. Empiricism gives 
facts without religion, 24. Rationalism gives religion without 
facts, 25. The layman's dilemma, 26. The unreality in ration- 
alistic systems, 27. Leibnitz on the damned, as an example, 28. 
M. I. Swift on the optimism of idealists, 31. Pragmatism as a 
mediating system, 33. An objection, 34. Reply; philosophies 
have characters like men, and are liable to as summary judg- 
ments, 34. Spencer as an example, 37. 


The squirrel, 41. Pragmatism as a method, 42. History of the 
method, 43. Its character and affinities, 45. How it contrasts 
with rationalism and intellectualism, 46. A 'corridor theory,* 
47. Pragmatism as a theory of truth, equivalent to liumanism,* 
47. Earlier views of mathematical, logical, and natural truth, 


8 Contents 

48. More recent views, 48, Schiller's and Dewey's 'instru- 
mental* view, 49. The formation of new beliefs, 50. Older truth 
always has to be kept account of, 50. Older truth arose simi- 
larly, 52. The *humanistic* doctrine, 53. Rationalistic criticisms 
of it, 54. Pragmatism, as mediator between empiricism and re- 
ligion, 55. Barrenness of transcendental idealism, 56. How far 
the concept of the Absolute must be called true, 57. The true 
is the good in the way of belief, 59. The clash of truths, 59. 
Pragmatism unstiffens discussion, 61. 


The problem of substance, 65. The Eucharist, 67. Berkeley's 
pragmatic treatment of material substance, 67. Locke's of 
personal identity, 68. The problem of materialism, 69. Ra- 
tionalistic treatment of it, 70. The pragmatic treatment, 71. 
'God' is no better than 'Matter' as a principle, unless he prom- 
ise more, 74. Pragmatic comparison of the two principles, 75. 
The problem of design, 79. Design per se is barren, 81. The 
question is what design, 81. The problem of 'free-will,* 82. 
Its relations to 'accountability,' 82. Free-will as a cosmological 
theory, 84. The pragmatic issue at stake in all these problems 
is what do the alternatives promise, 86. 


Total reflection, 89. Philosophy seeks not only unity, but to- 
tality, 91. Rationalistic feeling about unity, 91. Pragmatically 
considered, the world is one in many ways, 92. One time and 
space, 92. One subject of discourse, 92. Its parts interact, 93. 
Its oneness and manyness are co-ordinate, 95. Question of one 
origin, 95. Generic oneness, 96. One purpose, 96. One story, 
98. One knower, 99. Value of pragmatic method, 101. Absolute 
monism, 101. Vivekananda, 103. Various types of union dis- 
cussed, 105. Conclusion: We must oppose monistic dogmatism 
and follow the empirical findings, 107. 


Noetic pluralism, ill. How our knowledge grows, 112. Earlier 
ways of thinking remain, 113. Prehistoric ancestors discovered 
the common sense concepts, 114. List of them, 115. They 
came gradually into use, 116. Space and time, 118. "Things/ 
118. Kinds, 119. 'Cause* and law,* 119. Common sense one 
stage in mental evolution, due to geniuses, 120. The 'critical* 

Contents 9 

stages: i) scientific and 2) philosophic, compared with com- 
mon sense, 122. Impossible to say which is the more 'true,' 126. 


The polemic situation, 131. What does agreement with reality 
mean? 132-142. It means verifiability, 133. Verifiability means 
ability to guide us prosperously through experience, 134. Com- 
pleted verifications seldom needful, 136. 'Eternal* truths, 138. 
Consistency, 138; with language, 140; with previous truths, 
141. Rationalist objections, 143. Truth is a good, like health, 
wealth, etc., 144. It is expedient thinking, 145. The past, 146. 
Truth grows, 146. Rationalist objections, 148. Reply to them, 


The notion of the Truth, 157. Schiller on Humanism,* 159. 
Three sorts of reality of which any new truth must take ac- 
count, 160. To 'take account' is ambiguous, 160. Absolutely 
independent reality is hard to find, 162. The human contribu- 
tion is ubiquitous and builds out the given, 163. Essence of 
pragmatism's contrast with rationalism, 167. Rationalism 
affirms a transempirical world, 168. Motives for this, 169. 
Tough-mindedness rejects them, 170. A genuine alternative, 
171. Pragmatism mediates, 172. 


Utility of the Absolute, 177. Whitman's poem To You/ 178. 
Two ways of taking it, 179. My friend's letter, 181. Necessities 
versus possibilities, 183. ^Possibility' defined, 183. Three views 
of the world's salvation, 184. Pragmatism is melioristic, 185. 
We may create reality, 185. Why should anything be? 186. 
Supposed choice before creation, 187. The healthy and the 
morbid reply, 188. The 'tender' and the 'tough' types of re- 
ligion, 189. Pragmatism mediates, 191. 





INDEX 265 

Author's Dedication of Pragmatism 






Authors preface to Pragmatism 

The lectures tibat f oDow were delivered at the Lowell Institute 
in Boston in November and December, 1906, and in January, 
1907, at Columbia University, in New York. They are printed 
as delivered, without developments or notes. The pragmatic 
movement, so-called I do not like the name, but apparently 
it is too late to change it seems to have rather suddenly pre- 
cipitated itself out of the air. A number of tendencies that 
have always existed in philosophy have all at once become 
conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined 
mission; and this has occurred in so many countries, and from 
so many different points of view, that much unconcerted 
statement has resulted. I have sought to unify the picture as 
it presents itself to my own eyes, dealing in broad strokes, and 
avoiding minute controversy. Much futile controversy might 
have been avoided, I believe, if our critics had been willing 
to wait until we got our message fairly out. 

If my lectures interest any reader in the general subject, 
he will doubtless wish to read farther. I therefore give him a 
few references. 

In America, JOHN DEWEY'S 'Studies in Logical Theory* are 
the foundation. Read also by DEWEY the articles in the PM0- 
sophiccd Review, vol. xv, pp. 113 and 465, in Mind, vol. xv, 

14 Author* preface to Pragmatism 

p. 293, and in the Journal of Philosophy, vol. iv, p. 197. 

Probably the best statements to begin with, however, are 
F. C. S. SCHILLER'S in his 'Studies in Humanism' especially 
the essays numbered i, v, vi, vii, xviii and xix. His previous 
essays and in general the polemic literature of the subject 
are fully referred to in his footnotes. 

Furthermore, see J. MILHAUD: le Rationnel, 1898, and the 
fine articles by LE ROY in the Revue de MStaphysique, vols. 
7, 8 and 9. Also articles by BLONDEL and DE SAILLY in the 
Anndes de Philosophie Chretienne, 4 S6rie, vols. 2, and 3. 
PAPINI announces a book on Pragmatism, in the French lan- 
guage, to be published very soon. 

To avoid one misunderstanding at least, let me say that 
there is no logical connexion between pragmatism, as I under- 
stand it, and a doctrine which I have recently set forth as 
'radical empiricism/ The latter stands on its own feet. One 
may entirely reject it and still be a pragmatist. 


ONE: The Dilemma in Philosophy 



In the preface to that admirable collection of essays of 
his called 'Heretics/ Mr. Chesterton writes these words: 
"There are some people and I am one of them who 
think that the most practical and important thing about a 
man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a 
landlady considering a lodger it is important to know his 
income, but still more important to know his philosophy. 
We think that for a general about to fight an enemy it is 
important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more 
important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the 
question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects 
matters, but whether in the long run anything else affects 

I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that 
you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and 
all of you, and that the most interesting and important 
thing about you is the way in which it determines the 
perspective in your several worlds. You know the same 
of me. And yet I confess to a certain tremor at the au- 
dacity of the enterprise which I am about to begin. For 
the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not 
a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of 



what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got 
from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and 
feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos. I have 
no right to assume that many of you are students of the 
cosmos in the classroom sense, yet here I stand desirous 
of interesting you in a philosophy which to no small ex- 
tent has to be technically treated. I wish to fill you with 
sympathy with a contemporaneous tendency in which I 
profoundly believe, and yet I have to talk like a professor 
to you who are not students. Whatever universe a profes- 
sor believes in must at any rate be a universe that lends 
itself to lengthy discourse. A universe definable in two 
sentences is something for which the professorial intellect 
has no use. No faith in anything of that cheap land! I 
have heard friends and colleagues try to popularize phi- 
losophy in this very hall, but they soon grew dry, and 
then technical, and the results were only partially encour- 
aging. So my enterprise is a bold one. The founder of 
pragmatism himself recently gave a course of lectures at 
the Lowell Institute with that very word in its title, 
flashes of brilliant light relieved against Cimmerian dark- 
ness! None of us, I fancy, understood all that he said yet 
here I stand, making a very similar venture. 

I risk it because the very lectures I speak of drew they 
brought good audiences. There is, it must be confessed, a 
curious fascination in hearing deep things talked about, 
even though neither we nor the disputants understand 
them. We get the problematic thrill, we feel the presence 
of the vastness. Let a controversy begin in a smoking- 
room anywhere, about free-will or God's omniscience, or 
good and evil, and see how every one in the place pricks 
up his ears. Philosophy's results concern us all most vi- 
tally, and philosophy's queerest arguments tickle agree- 
ably our sense of subtlety and ingenuity. 

Believing in philosophy myself devoutly, and believ- 
ing also that a kind of new dawn is breaking upon us 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 19 

philosophers, I feel impelled, per fas aut nefas, to try to 
impart to you some news of the situation. 

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most 
trivial of human pursuits. It works in the minutest cran- 
nies and it opens out the widest vistas. It *bakes no bread,' 
as has been said, but it can inspire our souls with cour- 
age; and repugnant as its manners, its doubting and chal- 
lenging, its quibbling and dialectics, often are to common 
people, no one of us can get along without the far- 
flashing beams of light it sends over the world's perspec- 
tives. These illuminations at least, and the contrast-effects 
of darkness and mystery that accompany them, give to 
what it says an interest that is much more than profes- 

The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a 
certain clash of human temperaments. Undignified as 
such a treatment may seem to some of my colleagues, I 
shall have to take account of this clash and explain a good 
many of the divergencies of philosophers by it. Of what- 
ever temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries, 
when philosophizing, to sink the fact of his temperament. 
Temperament is no conventionally recognized reason, so 
he urges impersonal reasons only for his conclusions. Yet 
his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than 
any of his more strictly objective premises. It loads the 
evidence for him one way or the other, making for a more 
sentimental or a more hard-hearted view of the universe, 
just as this fact or that principle would. He trusts his tem- 
perament. Wanting a universe that suits it, he believes in 
any representation of the universe that does suit it. He 
feels men of opposite temper to be out of key with the 
world's character, and in his heart considers them incom- 
petent and 'not in it/ in the philosophic business, even 
though they may far excel him in dialectical ability. 

Yet in the forum he can make no claim, on the bare 
ground of his temperament, to superior discernment or 


authority. There arises thus a certain insincerity in our 
philosophic discussions: the potentest of all our premises 
is never mentioned. I am sure it would contribute to 
clearness if in these lectures we should break this rule 
and mention it, and I accordingly feel free to do so. 

Of course I am talking here of very positively marked 
men, men of radical idiosyncracy, who have set their 
stamp and likeness on philosophy and figure in its history. 
Plato, Locke, Hegel, Spencer, are such temperamental 
thinkers. Most of us have, of course, no very definite in- 
tellectual temperament, we are a mixture of opposite 
ingredients, each one present very moderately. We 
hardly know our own preferences in abstract matters; 
some of us are easily talked out of them, and end by fol- 
lowing the fashion or taking up with the beliefs of the 
most impressive philosopher in our neighborhood, who- 
ever he may be. But the one thing that has counted so 
far in philosophy is that a man should see things, see 
them straight in his own peculiar way, and be dissatisfied 
with any opposite way of seeing them. There is no reason 
to suppose that this strong temperamental vision is from 
now onward to count no longer in the history of man's 

Now the particular difference of temperament that I 
have in mind in making these remarks is one that has 
counted in literature, art, government, and manners as 
well as in philosophy. In manners we find formalists and 
free-and-easy persons. In government, authoritarians and 
anarchists. In literature, purists or academicals, and real- 
ists. In art, classics and romantics. You recognize these 
contrasts as familiar; well, in philosophy we have a very 
similar contrast expressed in the pair of terms 'rationalist' 
and 'empiricist,* 'empiricist* meaning your lover of facts 
in all their crude variety, 'rationalist' meaning your devo- 
tee to abstract and eternal principles. No one can live an 
hour without both facts and principles, so it is a differ- 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 21 

ence rather of emphasis; yet it breeds antipathies of the 
most pungent character between those who lay the em- 
phasis differently; and we shall find it extraordinarily 
convenient to express a certain contrast in men's ways of 
taking their universe, by talking of the "empiricist* and of 
the 'rationalist* temper. These terms make the contrast 
simple and massive. 

More simple and massive than are usually the men of 
whom the terms are predicated. For every sort of permu- 
tation and combination is possible in human nature; and 
if I now proceed to define more fully what I have in 
mind when I speak of rationalists and empiricists, by add- 
ing to each of those titles some secondary qualifying 
characteristics, I beg you to regard my conduct as to a 
certain extent arbitrary. I select types of combination that 
nature offers very frequently, but by no means uniformly, 
and I select them solely for their convenience in helping 
me to my ulterior purpose of characterizing pragmatism. 
Historically we find the terms 'intellectualism* and 'sen- 
sationalism' used as synonyms of 'rationalism* and 'em- 
piricism/ Well, nature seems to combine most frequently 
with intellectualism an idealistic and optimistic tendency. 
Empiricists on the other hand are not uncommonly ma- 
terialistic, and their optimism is apt to be decidedly con- 
ditional and tremulous. Rationalism is always monistic. 
It starts from wholes and universals, and makes much of 
the unity of things. Empiricism starts from the parts, and 
makes of the whole a collection is not averse therefore 
to calling itself pluralistic. Rationalism usually considers 
itself more religious than empiricism, but there is much 
to say about this claim, so I merely mention it. It is a true 
claim when the individual rationalist is what is called a 
man of feeling, and when the individual empiricist prides 
himself on being hard-headed. In that case the rationalist 
will usually also be in favor of what is called free-will, 
and the empiricist will be a fatalist I use the terms most 


popularly current. The rationalist finally will be of dog- 
matic temper in his affirmations, while the empiricist may 
be more sceptical and open to discussion. 

I will write these traits down in two columns. I think 
you will practically recognize the two types of mental 
make-up that I mean if I head the columns by the titles 
'tender-minded* and 'tough-minded' respectively. 


Rationalistic (going by Empiricist (going by 

'principles'), 'facts'), 

Intellectualistic, Sensationalistic, 

Idealistic, Materialistic, 

Optimistic, Pessimistic, 

Religious, Irreligious, 

Free-willist, Fatalistic, 

Monistic, Pluralistic, 

Dogmatical. Sceptical. 

Pray postpone for a moment the question whether the 
two contrasted mixtures which I have written down are 
each inwardly coherent and self-consistent or not I shall 
very soon have a good deal to say on that point. It suf- 
fices for our immediate purpose that tender-minded and 
tough-minded people, characterized as I have written 
them down, do both exist. Each of you probably knows 
some well-marked example of each type, and you know 
what each example thinks of the example on the other 
side of the line. They have a low opinion of each other. 
Their antagonism, whenever as individuals their temper- 
aments have been intense, has formed in all ages a part 
of the philosophic atmosphere of the time. It forms a part 
of the philosophic atmosphere to-day. The tough think of 
the tender as sentimentalists and soft-heads. The tender 
feel the tough to be unrefined, callous, or brutal. Their 
mutual reaction is very much like that that takes place 
when Bostonian tourists mingle with a population like 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 23 

that of Cripple Creek. Each type believes the other to be 
inferior to itself; but disdain in the one case is mingled 
with amusement, in the other it has a dash of fear. 

Now, as I have already insisted, few of us are tender- 
foot Bostonians pure and simple, and few are typical 
Rocky Mountain toughs, in philosophy. Most of us have a 
hankering for the good things on both sides of the line. 
Facts are good, of course give us lots of facts. Principles 
are good give us plenty of principles. The world is in- 
dubitably one if you look at it in one way, but as indubi- 
tably is it many, if you look at it in another. It is both one 
and many let us adopt a sort of pluralistic monism. Ev- 
erything of course is necessarily determined, and yet of 
course our wills are free: a sort of free-will determinism 
is the true philosophy. The evil of the parts is undeniable, 
but the whole can't be evil: so practical pessimism may 
be combined with metaphysical optimism. And so forth 
your ordinary philosophic layman never being a radical, 
never straightening out his system, but living vaguely in 
one plausible compartment of it or another to suit the 
temptations of successive hours. 

But some of us are more than mere laymen in philoso- 
phy. We are worthy of the name of amateur athletes, and 
are vexed by too much inconsistency and vacillation in 
our creed. We cannot preserve a good intellectual con- 
science so long as we keep mixing incompatibles from op- 
posite sides of the line. 

And now I come to the first positively important point 
which I wish to make. Never were as many men of a de- 
cidedly empiricist proclivity in existence as there are at 
the present day. Our children, one may say, are almost 
born scientific. But our esteem for facts has not neutral- 
ized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our 
scientific temper is devout Now take a man of this type, 
and let him be also a philosophic amateur, unwilling to 
mix a hodge-podge system after the fashion of a commoD 


layman, and what does he find his situation to be, in this 
blessed year of our Lord 1906? He wants facts; he wants 
science; but he also wants a religion. And being an ama- 
teur and not an independent originator in philosophy he 
naturally looks for guidance to the experts and profession- 
als whom he finds already in the field. A very large num- 
ber of you here present, possibly a majority of you, are 
amateurs of just this sort. 

Now what kinds of philosophy do you find actually of- 
fered to meet your need? You find an empirical phi- 
losophy that is not religious enough, and a religious 
philosophy that is not empirical enough for your purpose. 
If you look to the quarter where facts are most considered 
you find the whole tough-minded program in operation, 
and the "conflict between science and religion' in full 
blast. Either it is that Rocky Mountain tough of a 
Haeckel with his materialistic monism, his ether-god and 
his jest at your God as a 'gaseous vertebrate'; or it is 
Spencer treating the world's history as a redistribution of 
matter and motion solely, and bowing religion politely 
out at the front door: she may indeed continue to exist, 
but she must never show her face inside the temple. 

For a hundred and fifty years past the progress of sci- 
ence has seemed to mean the enlargement of the mate- 
rial universe and the diminution of man's importance. 
The result is what one may call the growth of naturalistic 
or positivistic feeling. Man is no lawgiver to nature, he is 
an absorber. She it is who stands firm; he it is who must 
accommodate himself. Let him record truth, inhuman 
though it be, and submit to itl The romantic spontaneity 
and courage are gone, the vision is materialistic and de- 
pressing. Ideals appear as inert by-products of physi- 
ology; what is higher is explained by what is lower and 
treated forever as a case of 'nothing but' nothing but 
something else of a quite inferior sort. You get, in short, 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 25 

a materialistic universe, in which only the tough-minded 
find themselves congenially at home. 

If now, on the other hand, you turn to the religious 
quarter for consolation, and take counsel of the tender- 
minded philosophies, what do you find? 

Religious philosophy in our day and generation is, 
among us English-reading people, of two main types. 
One of these is more radical and aggressive, the other 
has more the air of fighting a slow retreat By the more 
radical wing of religious philosophy I mean the so-called 
transcendental idealism of the Anglo-Hegelian school, the 
philosophy of such men as Green, the Cairds, Bosanquet, 
and Royce. This philosophy has greatly influenced the 
more studious members of our protestant ministry. It is 
pantheistic, and undoubtedly it has already blunted the 
edge of the traditional theism in protestantism at large. 

That theism remains, however. It is the lineal descend- 
ant, through one stage of concession after another, of the 
dogmatic scholastic theism still taught rigorously in the 
seminaries of the catholic church. For a long time it used 
to be called among us the philosophy of the Scottish 
school. It is what I meant by the philosophy that has the 
air of fighting a slow retreat. Between the encroachments 
of the hegelians and other philosophers of the 'Absolute/ 
on the one hand, and those of the scientific evolutionists 
and agnostics, on the other, the men that give us this 
kind of a philosophy, James Martineau, Professor Bowne, 
Professor Ladd and others, must feel themselves rather 
tightly squeezed. Fair-minded and candid as you like, 
this philosophy is not radical in temper. It is eclectic, a 
thing of compromises, that seeks a modus vivendi above 
all tilings. It accepts the facts of Darwinism, the facts of 
cerebral physiology, but it does nothing active or enthu- 
siastic with them. It lacks the victorious and aggressive 
note. It lacks prestige in consequence; whereas absolut- 


ism has a certain prestige due to the more radical style 
of it. 

These two systems are what you have to choose be- 
tween if you turn to the tender-minded school. And if 
you are the lovers of facts I have supposed you to be, you 
find the trail of the serpent of rationalism, of intellec- 
tualism, over everything that lies on that side of the line. 
You escape indeed the materialism that goes with the 
reigning empiricism; but you pay for your escape by los- 
ing contact with the concrete parts of life. The more 
absolutistic philosophers dwell on so high a level of ab- 
straction that they never even try to come down. The 
absolute mind which they offer us, the mind that makes 
our universe by thinking it, might, for aught they show 
us to the contrary, have made any one of a million other 
universes just as well as this. You can deduce no single 
actual particular from the notion of it. It is compatible 
with any state of things whatever being true here below. 
And the theistic God is almost as sterile a principle. You 
have to go to the world which he has created to get any 
inkling of his actual character: he is the kind of god that 
has once for all made that kind of a world. The God of 
the theistic writers lives on as purely abstract heights as 
does the Absolute. Absolutism has a certain sweep and 
dash about it, while the usual theism is more insipid, but 
both are equally remote and vacuous. What you want is 
a philosophy that will not only exercise your powers of 
intellectual abstraction, but that will make some positive 
connexion with this actual world of finite human lives. 

You want a system that will combine both things, the 
scientific loyalty to facts and willingness to take account 
of them, the spirit of adaptation and accommodation, in 
short, but also the old confidence in human values and the 
resultant spontaneity, whether of the religious or of the 
romantic type. And this is then your dilemma: you find 
the two parts of your quaesitum hopelessly separated. 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 27 

You find empiricism with inhumanism and irreligion; or 
else you find a rationalistic philosophy that indeed may 
call itself religious, but that keeps out of all definite touch 
with concrete facts and joys and sorrows. 

I am not sure how many of you live close enough to phi- 
losophy to realize fully what I mean by this last reproach, 
so I will dwell a little longer on that unreality in all ra- 
tionalistic systems by which your serious believer in facts 
is so apt to feel repelled. 

I wish that I had saved the first couple of pages of a 
thesis which a student handed me a year or two ago. 
They illustrated my point so clearly that I am sorry I can 
not read them to you now. This young man, who was a 
graduate of some Western college, began by saying that 
he had always taken for granted that when you entered 
a philosophic classroom you had to open relations with a 
universe entirely distinct from the one you left behind 
you in the street The two were supposed, he said, to 
have so little to do with each other, that you could not 
possibly occupy your mind with them at the same time. 
The world of concrete personal experiences to which the 
street belongs is multitudinous beyond imagination, tan- 
gled, muddy, painful and perplexed. The world to which 
your philosophy-professor introduces you is simple, clean 
and noble. The contradictions of real life are absent from 
it. Its architecture is classic. Principles of reason trace its 
outlines, logical necessities cement its parts. Purity and 
dignity are what it most expresses. It is a kind of marble 
temple shining on a hill. 

In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual 
world than a clear addition built upon it, a classic sanc- 
tuary in which the rationalist fancy may take refuge from 
the intolerably confused and gothic character which 
mere facts present. It is no explanation of our concrete 
universe, it is another thing altogether, a substitute for 
it, a remedy, a way of escape. 


Its temperament, if I may use the word temperament 
here, is utterly alien to the temperament of existence in 
the concrete. Refinement is what characterizes our intel- 
lectualist philosophies. They exquisitely satisfy that crav- 
ing for a refined object of contemplation which is so 
powerful an appetite of the mind. But I ask you in all 
seriousness to look abroad on this colossal universe of 
concrete facts, on their awful bewilderments, their sur- 
prises and cruelties, on the wilderness which they show, 
and then to tell me whether 'refined' is the one inevitable 
descriptive adjective that springs to your lips. 

Refinement has its place in things, true enough. But a 
philosophy that breathes out nothing but refinement will 
never satisfy the empiricist temper of mind. It will seem 
rather a monument of artificiality. So we find men of sci- 
ence preferring to turn their backs on metaphysics as on 
something altogether cloistered and spectral, and practi- 
cal men shaking philosophy's dust off their feet and fol- 
lowing the call of the wild. 

Truly there is something a little ghastly in the satisfac- 
tion with which a pure but unreal system will fill a ra- 
tionalist mind. Leibnitz was a rationalist mind, with in- 
finitely more interest in facts than most rationalist minds 
can show. Yet if you wish for superficiality incarnate, you 
have only to read that charmingly written TheodiceV of 
his, in which he sought to justify the ways of God to man, 
and to prove that the world we live in is the best of pos- 
sible worlds. Let me quote a specimen of what I mean. 

Among other obstacles to his optimistic philosophy, it 
falls to Leibnitz to consider the number of the eternally 
damned. That it is infinitely greater, in our human case, 
than that of those saved, he assumes as a premise from 
the theologians, and then proceeds to argue in this way. 
Even then, he says: 

"The evil will appear as almost nothing in comparison 
with the good, if we once consider the real magnitude of 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 29 

the City of God. Coelius Secundus Curio has written a 
little book, T)e Amplitudine Regni Coelestis/ which was 
reprinted not long ago. But he failed to compass the ex- 
tent of the kingdom of the heavens. The ancients had 
small ideas of the works of God. ... It seemed to them 
that only our earth had inhabitants, and even the notion 
of our antipodes gave them pause. The rest of the world 
for them consisted of some shining globes and a few crys- 
talline spheres. But to-day, whatever be the limits that 
we may grant or refuse to the Universe we must recog- 
nize in it a countless number of globes, as big as ours or 
bigger, which have just as much right as it has to support 
rational inhabitants, tho it does not follow that these 
need all be men. Our earth is only one among the six 
principal satellites of our sun. As all the fixed stars are 
suns, one sees how small a place among visible things our 
earth takes up, since it is only a satellite of one among 
them. Now all these suns may be inhabited by none but 
happy creatures; and nothing obliges us to believe that 
the number of damned persons is very great; for a very 
few instances and samples suffice for the utility which 
good draws from evil. Moreover, since there is no reason 
to suppose that there are stars everywhere, may there 
not be a great space beyond the region of the stars? And 
this immense space, surrounding all this region, . . . 
may be replete with happiness and glory. . . . What 
now becomes of the consideration of our Earth and of its 
denizens? Does it not dwindle to something incompara- 
bly less than a physical point, since our Earth is but a 
point compared with the distance of the fixed stars. Thus 
the part of the Universe which we know, being almost 
lost in nothingness compared with that which is unknown 
to us, but which we are yet obliged to admit; and all the 
evils that we know lying in this almost-nothing; it fol- 
lows that the evils may be almost-nothing in comparison 
with the goods that the Universe contains." 


Leibnitz continues elsewhere: 

"There is a kind of justice which aims neither at the 
amendment of the criminal, nor at furnishing an example 
to others, nor at the reparation of the injury. This justice 
is founded in pure fitness, which finds a certain satisfac- 
tion in the expiation of a wicked deed. The Socinians and 
Hobbes objected to this punitive justice, which is prop- 
erly vindictive justice, and which God has reserved for 
himself at many junctures. ... It is always founded in 
the fitness of things, and satisfies not only the offended 
party, but all wise lookers-on, even as beautiful music or 
a fine piece of architecture satisfies a well-constituted 
mind. It is thus that the torments of the damned con- 
tinue, even tho they serve no longer to turn any one away 
from sin, and that the rewards of the blest continue, even 
tho they confirm no one in good ways. The damned draw 
to themselves ever new penalties by their continuing sins, 
and the blest attract ever fresh joys by their unceasing 
progress in good. Both facts are founded on the principle 
of fitness, ... for God has made all things harmonious 
in perfection as I have already said." 

Leibnitz's feeble grasp of reality is too obvious to need 
comment from me. It is evident that no realistic image of 
the experience of a damned soul had ever approached the 
portals of his mind. Nor had it occurred to him that the 
smaller is the number of 'samples* of the genus lost- 
soul* whom God throws as a sop to the eternal fitness, the 
more unequitably grounded is the glory of the blest. 
What he gives us is a cold literary exercise, whose cheer- 
ful substance even hell-fire does not warm. 

And do not tell me that to show the shallowness of ra- 
tionalist philosophizing I have had to go back to a 
shallow wigpated age. The optimism of present-day ra- 
tionalism sounds just as shallow to the fact-loving mind. 
The actual universe is a thing wide open, but rationalism 
makes systems, and systems must be closed. For men in 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 31 

practical life perfection is something far off and still in 
process of achievement. This for rationalism is but the il- 
lusion of the finite and relative: the absolute ground of 
things is a perfection eternally complete. 

I find a fine example of revolt against the airy and 
shallow optimism of current religious philosophy in a 
publication of that valiant anarchistic writer Morrison I. 
Swift. Mr. Swift's anarchism goes a little farther than 
mine does, but I confess that I sympathize a good deal, 
and some of you, I know, will sympathize heartily with 
his dissatisfaction with the idealistic optimisms now in 
vogue. He begins his pamphlet on 'Human Submission* 
with a series of city reporter's items from newspapers 
(suicides, deaths from starvation, and the like) as speci- 
mens of our civilized regime. For instance: 

"After trudging through the snow from one end of the 
city to the other in the vain hope of securing employ- 
ment, and with his wife and six children without food 
and ordered to leave their home in an upper east-side 
tenement-house because of non-payment of rent, John 
Corcoran, a clerk, to-day ended his life by drinking car- 
bolic acid. Corcoran lost his position three weeks ago 
through illness, and during the period of idleness his 
scanty savings disappeared. Yesterday he obtained work 
with a gang of city snow-shovelers, but he was too weak 
from illness, and was forced to quit after an hour's trial 
with the shovel. Then the weary task of looking for em- 
ployment was again resumed. Thoroughly discouraged, 
Corcoran returned to his home last night to find his wife 
and children without food and the notice of dispossession 
on the door. On the following morning he drank the poi- 

"The records of many more such cases lie before me 
[Mr. Swift goes on]; an encyclopedia might easily be 
filled with their kind. These few I cite as an interpretation 
of the Universe. We are aware of the presence of God 


in his world,* says a writer in a recent English review, 
[The very presence of ill in the temporal order is the con- 
dition of the perfection of the eternal order, writes Pro- 
fessor Royce (The World and the Individual, n, 385).] 
The Absolute is the richer for every discord and for all 
the diversity which it embraces/ says F. H. Bradley (Ap- 
pearance and Reality, 204). He means that these slain 
men make the universe richer, and that is philosophy. 
But while Professors Royce and Bradley and a whole host 
of guileless thoroughfed thinkers are unveiling Reality 
and the Absolute and explaining away evil and pain, this 
is the condition of the only beings known to us anywhere 
in the universe with a developed consciousness of what 
the universe is. What these people experience is Reality. 
It gives us an absolute phase of the universe. It is the 
personal experience of those best qualified in our circle of 
knowledge to have experience, to tell us what is. Now 
what does thinking about the experience of these persons 
come to, compared to directly and personally feeling it 
as they feel it? The philosophers are dealing in shades, 
while those who live and feel know truth. And the mind 
of mankind not yet the mind of philosophers and of the 
proprietary class but of the great mass of the silently 
thinking men and feeling men, is coming to this view. 
They are judging the universe as they have hitherto per- 
mitted the hierophants of religion and learning to judge 
them. . . . 

"This Cleveland workingman, falling his children and 
himself [another of the cited cases] is one of the elemen- 
tal stupendous facts of this modern world and of this uni- 
verse. It cannot be glozed over or minimized away by all 
the treatises on God, and Love, and Being, helplessly ex- 
isting in their monumental vacuity. This is one of the sim- 
ple irreducible elements of this world's life, after millions 
of years of opportunity and twenty centuries of Christ. It 
is in the mental world what atoms or sub-atoms are in the 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 33 

physical, primary, indestructible. And what it blazons to 
man is the imposture of all philosophy which does not see 
in such events the consummate factor of all conscious ex- 
perience. These facts invincibly prove religion a nullity. 
Man will not give religion two thousand centuries or 
twenty centuries more to try itself and waste human time. 
Its time is up; its probation is ended; its own record ends 
it Mankind has not aeons and eternities to spare for try- 
ing out discredited systems." x 

Such is the reaction of an empiricist mind upon the ra- 
tionalist bill of fare. It is an absolute *No, I thank you.* 
Heligion/ says Mr. Swift, Is like a sleep-walker to whom 
actual things are blank/ And such, tho possibly less 
tensely charged with feeling, is the verdict of every se- 
riously inquiring amateur in philosophy to-day who turns 
to the philosophy-professors for the wherewithal to sat- 
isfy the fulness of his nature's needs. Empiricist writers 
give him a materialism, rationalists give him something 
religious, but to that religion 'actual things are blank/ He 
becomes thus the judge of us philosophers. Tender or 
tough, he finds us wanting. None of us may treat his ver- 
dicts disdainfully, for after all, his is the typically perfect 
mind, the mind the sum of whose demands is greatest, 
the mind whose criticisms and dissatisfactions are fatal 
in the long run. 

It is at this point that my own solution begins to ap- 
pear. I offer the oddly-named thing pragmatism as a phi- 
losophy that can satisfy both kinds of demand. It can 
remain religious like the rationalisms, but at the same 
time, like the empiricisms, it can preserve the richest in- 
timacy with facts. I hope I may be able to leave many of 
you with as favorable an opinion of it as I preserve my- 
self. Yet, as I am near the end of my hour, I will not in- 
troduce pragmatism bodily now. I will begin with it on 
the stroke of the dock next time. I prefer at the present 
moment to return a little on what I have said. 


If any of you here are professional philosophers, and 
some of you I know to be such, you will doubtless have 
felt my discourse so far to have been crude in an unpar- 
donable, nay, in an almost incredible degree. Tender- 
minded and tough-minded, what a barbaric disjunction! 
And, in general, when philosophy is all compacted of 
delicate intellectualities and subtleties and scrupulosities, 
and when every possible sort of combination and transi- 
tion obtains within its bounds, what a brutal caricature 
and reduction of highest things to the lowest possible ex- 
pression is it to represent its field of conflict as a sort oi 
rough-and-tumble fight between two hostile tempera- 
ments! What a childishly external view! And again, how 
stupid it is to treat the abstractness of rationalist systems 
as a crime, and to damn them because they offer them- 
selves as sanctuaries and places of escape, rather than as 
prolongations of the world of facts. Are not all our theo- 
ries just remedies and places of escape? And, if philoso- 
phy is to be religious, how can she be anything else than 
a place of escape from the crassness of reality's surface? 
What better thing can she do than raise us out of our an- 
imal senses and show us another and a nobler home for 
our minds in that great framework of ideal principles 
subtending all reality, which the intellect divines? How 
can principles and general views ever be anything but 
abstract outlines? Was Cologne cathedral built without an 
architect's plan on paper? Is refinement in itself an 
abomination? Is concrete rudeness the only thing that's 

Believe me, I feel the full force of the indictment. 
The picture I have given is indeed monstrously over- 
simplified and rude. But like all abstractions, it will prove 
to have its use. If philosophers can treat the life of the 
universe abstractly, they must not complain of an abstract 
treatment of the life of philosophy itself. In point of fact 
the picture I have given is, however coarse and sketchy, 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 35 

literally true. Temperaments with their cravings and re- 
fusals do determine men in their philosophies, and always 
will. The details of systems may be reasoned out piece- 
meal, and when the student is working at a system, he 
may often forget the forest for the single tree. But when 
the labor is accomplished, the mind always performs its 
big summarizing act, and the system forthwith stands 
over against one like a living thing, with that strange sim- 
ple note of individuality which haunts our memory, like 
the wraith of the man, when a friend or enemy of ours is 

Not only Walt Whitman could write 'who touches this 
book touches a man/ The books of all the great philoso- 
phers are like so many men. Our sense of an essential 
personal flavor in each one of them, typical but indescrib- 
able, is the finest fruit of our own accomplished phil- 
osophic education. What the system pretends to be is a 
picture of the great universe of God. What it is, and oh 
so flagrantly! is the revelation of how intensely odd the 
personal flavor of some fellow creature is. Once reduced 
to these terms (and all our philosophies get reduced to 
them in minds made critical by learning) our commerce 
with the systems reverts to the informal, to the instinctive 
human reaction of satisfaction or dislike. We grow as per- 
emptory in our rejection or admission, as when a person 
presents himself as a candidate for our favor; our verdicts 
are couched in as simple adjectives of praise or dispraise. 
We measure the total character of the universe as we 
feel it, against the flavor of the philosophy proffered us, 
and one word is enough. 

'Statt der lebendigen Natur/ we say, *da Gott die 
Menschen schuf hinein/ that nebulous concoction, that 
wooden, that straight-laced thing, that crabbed artificial- 
ity, that musty schoolroom product, that sick man's 
dream! Away with it. Away with all of them! Impossible! 


Our work over the details of his system is indeed what 
gives us our resultant impression of the philosopher, but 
it is on the resultant impression itself that we react. Ex- 
pertness in philosophy is measured by the definiteness 
of our summarizing reactions, by the immediate percep- 
tive epithet with which the expert hits such complex ob- 
jects off. But great expertness is not necessary for the 
epithet to come. Few people have definitely articulated 
philosophies of their own. But almost every one has his 
own peculiar sense of a certain total character in the uni- 
verse, and of the inadequacy fully to match it of the 
peculiar systems that he knows. They don't just cover his 
world. One will be too dapper, another too pedantic, a 
third too much of a job-lot of opinions, a fourth too mor- 
bid, and a fifth too artificial, or what not. At any rate he 
and we know off-hand that such philosophies are out of 
plumb and out of key and out of 'whack/ and have no 
business to speak up in the universe's name. Plato, Locke, 
Spinoza, Mill, Caird, Hegel I prudently avoid names 
nearer home! I am sure that to many of you, my hear- 
ers, these names are little more than reminders of as many 
curious personal ways of falling short. It would be an ob- 
vious absurdity if such ways of taking the universe were 
actually true. 

We philosophers have to reckon with such feelings on 
your part In the last resort, I repeat, it will be by them 
that all our philosophies shall ultimately be judged. The 
finally victorious way of looking at things will be the most 
completely impressive way to the normal run of minds. 

One word more namely about philosophies necessarily 
being abstract outlines. There are outlines and outlines, 
outlines of buildings that are jot, conceived in the cube 
by their planner, and outlines of buildings invented flat 
on paper, with the aid of ruler and compass. These remain 
skinny and emaciated even when set up in stone and 
mortar, and the outline already suggests that result. An 

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy 37 

outline in itself is meagre, truly, but it does not neces- 
sarily suggest a meagre thing. It is the essential mea- 
greness of what is suggested by the usual rationalistic 
philosophies that moves empiricists to their gesture of re- 
jection. The case of Herbert Spencer's system is much to 
the point here. Rationalists feel his fearful array of insuf- 
ficiencies. His dry schoolmaster temperament, the hurdy- 
gurdy monotony of him, his preference for cheap 
makeshifts in argument, his lack of education even in 
mechanical principles, and in general the vagueness of 
all his fundamental ideas, his whole system wooden, as if 
knocked together out of cracked hemlock boards and 
yet the half of England wants to bury him in Westminster 

Why? Why does Spencer call out so much reverence in 
spite of his weakness in rationalistic eyes? Why should so 
many educated men who feel that weakness, you and 1 
perhaps, wish to see him in the Abbey notwithstand- 
ing? Simply because we feel his heart to be in the right 
place philosophically. His principles may be all skin 
and bone, but at any rate his books try to mould them- 
selves upon the particular shape of this particular world's 
carcase. The noise of facts resounds through all his chap- 
ters, the citations of fact never cease, he emphasizes facts, 
turns his face towards their quarter; and that is enough. 
It means the right kind of thing for the empiricist mind. 

The pragmatistic philosophy of which I hope to begin 
talking in my next lecture preserves as cordial a relation 
with facts, and, unlike Spencer's philosophy, it neither 
begins nor ends by turning positive religious con- 
structions out of doors it treats them cordially as well. 

I hope I may lead you to find it just the mediating way 
of thinking that you require. 

TWO; What Pragmatism Means 



Some years ago, being with a camping party in the moun- 
tains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one 
engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus 
of the dispute was a squirrel a live squirrel supposed to 
be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against 
the tree's opposite side a human being was imagined to 
stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squir- 
rel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how 
fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite di- 
rection, and always keeps the tree between himself and 
the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught The 
resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the 
man go round the squirrel or not? He goes round the tree, 
sure enough, and the squirrel is on the tree; but does he 
go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the 
wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Every- 
one had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the numbers 
on both sides were even. Each side, when I appeared 
therefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Mindful 
of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a con- 
tradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately 



sought and found one, as follows: "Which party is right," 
I said, "depends on what you practically mean by 'going 
round* the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north 
of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, 
and then to the north of him again, obviously the man 
does go round him, for he occupies these successive posi- 
tions. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front 
of him, then on the right of him, then behind him, then 
on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as obvi- 
ous that the man fails to go round him, for by the com- 
pensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his 
belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back 
turned away. Make the distinction, and there is no occa- 
sion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both 
wrong according as you conceive the verb 'to go round* 
in one practical fashion or the other." 

Although one or two of the hotter disputants called my 
speech a shuffling evasion, saying they wanted no quib- 
bling or scholastic hair-splitting, but meant just plain 
honest English 'round/ the majority seemed to think that 
the distinction had assuaged the dispute. 

I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly sim- 
ple example of what I wish now to speak of as the prag- 
matic method. The pragmatic method is primarily a 
method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise 
might be interminable. Is the world one or many? fated 
or free? material or spiritual? here are notions either 
of which may or may not hold good of the world; and 
disputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic 
method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by 
tracing its respective practical consequences. What dif- 
ference would it practically make to any one if this no- 
tion rather than that notion were true? If no practical 
difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives 
mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle. 
Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to 

What Pragmatism Means 43 

show some practical difference that must follow from one 
side or the other's being right. 

A glance at the history of the idea will show you still 
better what pragmatism means. The term is derived from 
the same Greek word TrpdT/za, meaning action, from 
which our words 'practice' and 'practical* come. It was 
first introduced into philosophy by Mr. Charles Peirce in 
1878. In an article entitled 'How to Make Our Ideas 
Clear/ in the Topular Science Monthly* for January of 
that year 1 Mr. Peirce, after pointing out that our beliefs 
are really rules for action, said that, to develop a thought's 
meaning, we need only determine what conduct it is 
fitted to produce: that conduct is for us its sole signifi- 
cance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our 
thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no 
one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible 
difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our 
thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what 
conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may 
involve what sensations we are to expect from it, and 
what reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these 
effects, whether immediate or remote, is then for us the 
whole of our conception of the object, so far as that 
conception has positive significance at all. 

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragma- 
tism. It lay entirely unnoticed by any one for twenty 
years, until I, in an address before Professor Howison's 
philosophical union at the University of California, 
brought it forward again and made a special application 
of it to religion. By that date (1898) the times seemed 
ripe for its reception. The word 'pragmatism* spread, and 
at present it fairly spots the pages of the philosophic 
journals. On all hands we find the 'pragmatic movement* 
spoken of, sometimes with respect, sometimes with con- 
tumely, seldom with clear understanding. It is evident 
that the term applies itself conveniently to a number of 


tendencies that hitherto have lacked a collective name, 
and that it has 'come to stay/ 

To take in the importance of Peirce's principle, one 
must get accustomed to applying it to concrete cases. I 
found a few years ago that Ostwald, the illustrious 
Leipzig chemist, had been making perfectly distinct use 
of the principle of pragmatism in his lectures on the 
philosophy of science, though he had not called it by that 

"All realities influence our practice," he wrote me, "and 
that influence is their meaning for us. I am accustomed 
to put questions to my classes in this way: In what re- 
spects would the world be different if this alternative or 
that were true? If I can find nothing that would become 
different, then the alternative has no sense." 

That is, the rival views mean practically the same 
thing, and meaning, other than practical, there is for us 
none. Ostwald in a published lecture gives this example 
of what he means. Chemists have long wrangled over the 
inner constitution of certain bodies called 'tautomerous.' 
Their properties seemed equally consistent with the no- 
tion that an instable hydrogen atom oscillates inside of 
them, or that they are instable mixtures of two bodies. 
Controversy raged, but never was decided. "It would 
never have begun/' says Ostwald, "if the combatants had 
asked themselves what particular experimental fact could 
have been made different by one or the other view being 
correct For it would then have appeared that no differ- 
ence of fact could possibly ensue; and the quarrel was 
as unreal as if, theorizing in primitive times about the 
raising of dough by yeast, one party should have invoked 
a 'brownie,' while another insisted on an *elf as the true 
cause of the phenomenon." 2 

It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes 
collapse into insignificance the moment you subject them 
to this simple test of tracing a concrete consequence. 

What Pragmatism Means 45 

There can be no difference anywhere that doesn't make 
a difference elsewhere no difference in abstract truth 
that doesn't express itself in a difference in concrete fact 
and in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on 
somebody, somehow, somewhere, and somewhen. The 
whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out 
what definite difference it will make to you and me, at 
definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that 
world-formula be the true one. 

There is absolutely nothing new in the pragmatic 
method. Socrates was an adept at it. Aristotle used it 
methodically. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume made momen- 
tous contributions to truth by its means. Shadworth 
Hodgson keeps insisting that realities are only what they 
are Tknown as/ But these forerunners of pragmatism used 
it in fragments: they were preluders only. Not until in 
our time has it generalized itself, become conscious of a 
universal mission, pretended to a conquering destiny. I 
believe in that destiny, and I hope I may end by in- 
spiring you with my belief. 

Pragmatism represents a perfectly familiar attitude in 
philosophy, the empiricist attitude, but it represents it, 
as it seems to me, both in a more radical and in a less 
objectionable form than it has ever yet assumed. A prag- 
matist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a 
lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers. 
He turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from 
verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed 
principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and 
origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, to- 
wards facts, towards action and towards power. That 
means the empiricist temper regnant and the rationalist 
temper sincerely given up. It means the open air and 
possibilities of nature, as against dogma, artificiality, and 
the pretence of finality in truth. 

At the same time it does not stand for any special 


results. It is a method only. But the general triumph of 
that method would mean an enormous change in what I 
called in my last lecture the 'temperament' of philosophy. 
Teachers of the ultra-rationalistic type would be frozen 
out, much as the courtier type is frozen out in republics, 
as the ultramontane type of priest is frozen out in prot- 
estant lands. Science and metaphysics would come 
much nearer together, would in fact work absolutely 
hand in hand. 

Metaphysics has usually followed a very primitive kind 
of quest. You know how men have always hankered after 
unlawful magic, and you know what a great part in 
magic words have always played. If you have his name, 
or the formula of incantation that binds him, you can 
control the spirit, genie, afrite, or whatever the power 
may be. Solomon knew the names of all the spirits, and 
having their names, he held them subject to his will. 
So the universe has always appeared to the natural mind 
as a kind of enigma, of which the key must be sought 
in the shape of some illuminating or power-bringing word 
or name. That word names the universe's principle, and 
to possess it is after a fashion to possess the universe 
itself. 'God,' 'Matter/ 'Reason/ 'the Absolute/ 'Energy/ 
are so many solving names. You can rest when you have 
them. You are at the end of your metaphysical quest. 

But if you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot 
look on any such word as closing your quest. You must 
bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at 
work within the stream of your experience. It appears 
less as a solution, then, than as a program for more 
work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways 
in which existing realities may be changed. 

Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enig- 
mas, in which we can rest. We don't lie back upon them, 
we move forward, and, on occasion, make nature over 
again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all our theories, 

What Pragmatism Means 47 

limbers them up and sets each one at work. Being noth- 
ing essentially new, it harmonizes with many ancient 
philosophic tendencies. It agrees with nominalism for in- 
stance, in always appealing to particulars; with utilitari- 
anism in emphasizing practical aspects; with positivism 
in its disdain for verbal solutions, useless questions and 
metaphysical abstractions. 

All these, you see, are anti-intellectualist tendencies. 
Against rationalism as a pretension and a method prag- 
matism is fully armed and militant But, at the outset, at 
least, it stands for no particular results. It has no dogmas, 
and no doctrines save its method. As the young Italian 
pragmatist Papini has well said, it lies in the midst of 
our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable 
chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man 
writing an atheistic volume; in the next some one on his 
knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist 
investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system 
of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth 
the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they 
all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they 
want a practicable way of getting into or out of their 
respective rooms. 

No particular results then, so far, but only an attitude 
of orientation, is what the pragmatic method means. The 
attitude of looking away from first things, principles, 
'categories' supposed necessities; and of looking toward? 
last things, fruits, consequences, facts. 

So much for the pragmatic method! You may say that 
I have been praising it rather than explaining it to you, 
but I shall presently explain it abundantly enough by 
showing how it works on some familiar problems. Mean- 
while the word pragmatism has come to be used in a 
still wider sense, as meaning also a certain theory of 
truth. I mean to give a whole lecture to the statement 
of that theory, after first paving the way, so I can be 


very brief now. But brevity is hard to follow, so I ask 
for your redoubled attention for a quarter of an hour. 
If much remains obscure, I hope to make it clearer in 
the later lectures. 

One of the most successfully cultivated branches of 
philosophy in our time is what is called inductive logic, 
the study of the conditions under which our sciences 
have evolved. Writers on this subject have begun to show 
a singular unanimity as to what the laws of nature and 
elements of fact mean, when formulated by mathemati- 
cians, physicists and chemists. When the first mathemat- 
ical, logical, and natural uniformities, the first laws, were 
discovered, men were so carried away by the clearness, 
beauty and simplification that resulted, that they be- 
lieved themselves to have deciphered authentically the 
eternal thoughts of the Almighty. His mind also thun- 
dered and reverberated in syllogisms. He also thought in 
conic sections, squares and roots and ratios, and geome- 
trized like Euclid. He made Kepler's laws for the planets 
to follow; he made velocity increase proportionally to the 
time in falling bodies; he made the law of the sines for 
light to obey when refracted; he established the classes, 
orders, families and genera of plants and animals, and 
fixed the distances between them. He thought the arche- 
lypes of all things, and devised their variations; and 
when we rediscover any one of these his wondrous in- 
stitutions, we seize his mind in its very literal intention. 

But as the sciences have developed farther the notion 
has gained ground that most, perhaps all, of our laws are 
only approximations. The laws themselves, moreover, 
have grown so numerous that there is no counting them; 
and so many rival fonnulations are proposed in all the 
branches of science that investigators have become ac- 
'Customed to the notion that no theory is absolutely a 
transcript of reality, but that any one of them may from 
point of view be useful. Their great use is to sum- 

What Pragmatism Means 49 

marize old facts and to lead to new ones. They are 
only a man-made language, a conceptual shorthand, as 
some one calls them, in which we write our reports of 
nature; and languages, as is well known, tolerate much 
choice of expression and many dialects. 

Thus human arbitrariness has driven divine necessity 
from scientific logic. If I mention the names of Sigwart, 
Mach, Ostwald, Pearson, Milhaud, Poincar6, Duhem, 
Ruyssen, those of you who are students will easily iden- 
tify the tendency I speak of, and will think of additional 

Riding now on the front of this wave of scientific logic 
Messrs. Schiller and Dewey appear with their pragma- 
tistic account of what truth everywhere signifies. Every- 
where, these teachers say, 'truth* in our ideas and beliefs 
means the same thing that it means in science. It means, 
they say, nothing but this, that ideas (which themselves 
are but parts of our experience) become true just in so 
far as they help us to get into satisfactory relations with 
other parts of our experience, to summarize them and get 
about among them by conceptual short-cuts instead of 
following the interminable succession of particular phe- 
nomena. Any idea upon which we can ride, so to speak; 
any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one 
part of our experience to any other part, linking things 
satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying, saving labor; 
is true for just so much, true in so far forth, true in- 
strumentally. This is the 'instrumental' view of truth 
taught so successfully at Chicago, the view that truth in 
our ideas means their power to 'work/ promulgated so 
brilliantly at Oxford. 

Messrs. Dewey, Schiller and their allies, in reaching 
this general conception of all truth, have only followed 
the example of geologists, biologists and philologists. In 
the establishment of these other sciences, the successful 
stroke was always to take some simple process actually 


observable in operation as denudation by weather, say, 
or variation from parental type, or change of dialect by 
incorporation of new words and pronunciations and 
then to generalize it, making it apply to all times, and 
produce great results by summating its effects through 
the ages. 

The observable process which Schiller and Dewey par- 
ticularly singled out for generalization is the familiar one 
by which any individual settles into new opinions. The 
process here is always the same. The individual has a 
stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new ex- 
perience that puts them to a strain. Somebody contra- 
dicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that 
they contradict each other; or he hears of facts with which 
they are incompatible; or desires arise in him which they 
cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which 
his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which 
he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of 
opinions. He saves as much of it as he can, for in this 
matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So he 
tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they 
resist change very variously), until at last some new idea 
comes up which he can graft upon the ancient stock 
with a minimum of disturbance of the latter, some idea 
that mediates between the stock and the new experience 
and runs them into one another most felicitously and 

This new idea is then adopted as the true one. It 
preserves the older stock of truths with a minimum of 
modification, stretching them just enough to make them 
admit the novelty, but conceiving that in ways as familiar 
as the case leaves possible. An outree explanation, violat- 
ing all our preconceptions, would never pass for a true 
account of a novelty. We should scratch round industri- 
ously till we found something less eccentric. The most 
violent revolutions in an individual's beliefs leave most of 

What Pragmatism Means 51 

his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, 
nature and history, and one's own biography remain un- 
touched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother- 
over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so 
as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of con- 
tinuity. We hold a theory true just in proportion to its 
success in solving this 'problem of maxima and minima/ 
But success in solving this problem is eminently a matter 
of approximation. We say this theory solves it on the 
whole more satisfactorily than that theory; but that means 
more satisfactorily to ourselves, and individuals will em- 
phasize their points of satisfaction differently. To a cer- 
tain degree, therefore, everything here is plastic. 

The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the 
part played by the older truths. Failure to take account 
of it is the source of much of the unjust criticism levelled 
against pragmatism. Their influence is absolutely con- 
trolling. Loyalty to them is the first principle in most 
cases it is die only principle; for by far the most usual 
way of handling phenomena so novel that they would 
make for a serious re-arrangement of our preconception 
is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear 
witness for them. 

You doubtless wish examples of this process of truth's 
growth, and the only trouble is their superabundance. 
The simplest case of new truth is of course the mere 
numerical addition of new kinds of facts, or of new single 
facts of old kinds, to our experience an addition that 
involves no alteration in the old beliefs. Day follows day, 
and its contents are simply added. The new contents 
themselves are not true, they simply come and are. Truth 
is what we say about them, and when we say that they 
have come, truth is satisfied by the plain additive for- 

But often the day's contents oblige a re-arrangement 
If I should now utter piercing shrieks and act like a 


maniac on this platform, it would make many of you 
revise your ideas as to the probable worth of my philos- 
ophy. 'Radium' came the other day as part of the day's 
content, and seemed for a moment to contradict our 
ideas of the whole order of nature, that order having 
come to be identified with what is called the conservation 
of energy. The mere sight of radium paying heat away 
indefinitely out of its own pocket seemed to violate that 
conservation. What to think? If the radiations from it 
were nothing but an escape of unsuspected "potential* 
energy, pre-existent inside of the atoms, the principle of 
conservation would be saved. The discovery of Tielium' 
as the radiation's outcome, opened a way to this belief. 
So Ramsay's view is generally held to be true, because, 
although it extends our old ideas of energy, it causes a 
minimum of alteration in their nature. 

I need not multiply instances. A new opinion counts 
as 'true' just in proportion as it gratifies the individual's 
desire to assimilate the novel in his experience to his 
beliefs in stock. It must both lean on old truth and grasp 
new fact; and its success (as I said a moment ago) in 
doing this, is a matter for the individual's appreciation. 
When old truth grows, then, by new truth's addition, it is 
for subjective reasons. We are in the process and obey 
the reasons. That new idea is truest which performs most 
felicitously its function of satisfying our double urgency. 
It makes itself true, gets itself classed as true, by the 
way it works; grafting itself then upon the ancient body 
of truth, which thus grows much as a tree grows by the 
activity of a new layer of cambium. 

Now Dewey and Schiller proceed to generalize this 
observation and to apply it to the most ancient parts of 
truth. They also once were plastic. They also were called 
true for human reasons. They also mediated between still 
earlier truths and what in those days were novel observa- 
tions. Purely objective truth, truth in whose establishment 

What Pragmatism Means 53 

the function of giving human satisfaction in marrying 
previous parts of experience with newer parts played no 
role whatever, is nowhere to be found. The reasons why 
we call things true is the reason why they are true, for 
"to be true' means only to perform this marriage-function. 

The trail of the human serpent is thus over everything. 
Truth independent; truth that we find merely; truth no 
longer malleable to human need; truth incorrigible, in a 
word; such truth exists indeed superabundantly or is 
supposed to exist by rationalistically minded thinkers; 
but then it means only the dead heart of the living tree, 
and its being there means only that truth also has its 
paleontology, and its 'prescription/ and may grow stiff 
with years of veteran service and petrified in men's re- 
gard by sheer antiquity. But how plastic even the oldest 
truths nevertheless really are has been vividly shown in 
our day by the transformation of logical and mathemati- 
cal ideas, a transformation which seems even to be in- 
vading physics. The ancient formulas are reinterpreted 
as special expressions of much wider principles, princi- 
ples that our ancestors never got a glimpse of in then- 
present shape and formulation. 

Mr. Schiller still gives to all this view of truth the 
name of 'Humanism,' but, for this doctrine too, the name 
of pragmatism seems fairly to be in the ascendent, so I 
will treat it under the name of pragmatism in these 

Such then would be the scope of pragmatism first, a 
method; and second, a genetic theory of what is meant 
by truth. And these two things must be our future topics. 

What I have said of the theory of truth will, I am 
sure, have appeared obscure and unsatisfactory to most 
of you by reason of its brevity. I shall make amends 
for that hereafter. In a lecture on 'common sense* I shall 
try to show what I mean by truths grown petrified by 
antiquity. In another lecture I shall expatiate on the idea 


that our thoughts become true in proportion as they suc- 
cessfully exert their go-between function. In a third I 
shall show how hard it is to discriminate subjective from 
objective factors in Truth's development. You may not 
follow me wholly in these lectures; and if you do, you 
may not wholly agree with me. But you will, I know, 
regard me at least as serious, and treat my effort with 
respectful consideration. 

You will probably be surprised to learn, then, that 
Messrs. Schiller's and Dewey's theories have suffered a 
hailstorm of contempt and ridicule. All rationalism has 
risen against them. In influential quarters Mr. Schiller, in 
particular, has been treated like an impudent schoolboy 
who deserves a spanking. I should not mention this, but 
for the fact that it throws so much sidelight upon that 
rationalistic temper to which I have opposed the temper 
of pragmatism. Pragmatism is uncomfortable away from 
facts. Rationalism is comfortable only in the presence of 
abstractions. This pragmatist talk about truths in the plu- 
ral, about their utility and satisfactoriness, about the 
success with which they 'work/ etc., suggests to the typi- 
cal intellectualist mind a sort of coarse lame second-rate 
makeshift article of truth. Such truths are not real truth. 
Such tests are merely subjective. Against this, objective 
truth must be something non-utilitarian, haughty, re- 
fined, remote, august, exalted. It must be an absolute 
correspondence of our thoughts with an equally absolute 
reality. It must be what we ought to think uncondition- 
ally. The conditioned ways in which we do think are so 
much irrelevance and matter for psychology. Down with 
psychology, up with logic, in all this questionl 

See the exquisite contrast of the types of mind! The 
pragmatist clings to facts and concreteness, observes 
truth at its work in particular cases, and generalizes. 
Truth, for him, becomes a class-name for all sorts of 
definite working-values in experience. For the rational- 

What Pragmatism Means 55 

1st it remains a pure abstraction, to the bare name of 
which we must defer. When the pragmatist undertakes 
to show in detail just why we must defer, the rationalist 
is unable to recognize the concretes from which his own 
abstraction is taken. He accuses us of denying truth; 
whereas we have only sought to trace exactly why people 
follow it and always ought to follow it. Your typical 
ultra-abstractionist fairly shudders at concreteness: other 
things equal, he positively prefers the pale and spectral. 
If the two universes were offered, he would always 
choose the skinny outline rather than the rich thicket of 
reality. It is so much purer, clearer, nobler. 

I hope that as these lectures go on, the concreteness 
and closeness to facts of the pragmatism which they 
advocate may be what approves itself to you as its most 
satisfactory peculiarity. It only follows here the example 
of the sister-sciences, interpreting the unobserved by the 
observed. It brings old and new harmoniously together. 
It converts the absolutely empty notion of a static re- 
lation of 'correspondence' (what that may mean we must 
ask later) between our minds and reality, into that of a 
rich and active commerce (that any one may follow in 
detail and understand) between particular thoughts of 
ours, and the great universe of other experiences in 
which they play their parts and have their uses. 

But enough of this at present? The justification of what 
I say must be postponed. I wish now to add a word in 
further explanation of the claim I made at our last meet- 
ing, that pragmatism may be a happy harmonizer of 
empiricist ways of thinking with the more religious de- 
mands of human beings. 

Men who are strongly of the fact-loving temperament, 
you may remember me to have said, are liable to be 
kept at a distance by the small sympathy with facts 
which that philosophy from the present-day fashion of 


idealism offers them. It is far too intellectualistic. Old 
fashioned theism was bad enough, with its notion of God 
as an exalted monarch, made up of a lot of unintelligible 
or preposterous 'attributes'; but, so long as it held strongly 
by the argument from design, it kept some touch with 
concrete realities. Since, however, darwinism has once 
for all displaced design from the minds of the 'scientific/ 
theism has lost that foothold; and some kind of an im- 
manent or pantheistic deity working in things rather than 
above them is, if any, the kind recommended to our 
contemporary imagination. Aspirants to a philosophic re- 
ligion turn, as a rule, more hopefully nowadays towards 
idealistic pantheism than towards the older dualistic 
theism, in spite of the fact that the latter still counts 
able defenders. 

But, as I said in my first lecture, the brand of panthe- 
ism offered is hard for them to assimilate if they are 
lovers of facts, or empirically minded. It is the absolutistic 
brand, spurning the dust and reared upon pure logic. It 
keeps no connexion whatever with concreteness. Affirm- 
ing the Absolute Mind, which is its substitute for God, 
to be the rational presupposition of all particulars of 
fact, whatever they may be, it remains supremely indif- 
ferent to what the particular facts in our world actually 
are. Be they what they may, the Absolute will father 
them. Lake the sick lion in Esop's fable, all footprints 
lead into his den, but nulla vestigia retrorsum. You cannot 
redescend into the world of particulars by the Absolute's 
aid, or deduce any necessary consequences of detail im- 
portant for your life from your idea of his nature. He 
gives you indeed the assurance that all is well with Him, 
and for his eternal way of thinking; but thereupon he 
leaves you to be finitely saved by your own temporal 

Far be it from me to deny the majesty of this con- 
ception, or its capacity to yield religious comfort to a 

What Pragmatism Means 57 

most respectable class of minds. But from the human 
point of view, no one can pretend that it doesn't suffer 
from the faults of remoteness and abstractness. It is em- 
inently a product of what I have ventured to call the 
rationalistic temper. It disdains empiricism's needs. It 
substitutes a pallid outline for the real world's richness. 
It is dapper, it is noble in the bad sense, in the sense 
in which to be noble is to be inapt for humble service. 
In this real world of sweat and dirt, it seems to me that 
when a view of things is 'noble/ that ought to count as 
a presumption against its truth, and as a philosophic 
disqualification. The prince of darkness may be a gentle- 
man, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth 
and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman. His menial 
services are needed in the dust of our human trails, even 
more than his dignity is needed in the empyrean. 

Now pragmatism, devoted though she be to facts, has 
no such materialistic bias as ordinary empiricism labors 
under. Moreover, she has no objection whatever to the 
realizing of abstractions, so long as you get about among 
particulars with their aid and they actually carry you 
somewhere. Interested in no conclusions but those which 
our minds and our experiences work out together, she 
has no a priori prejudices against theology. If theological 
ideas prove to have a value for concrete life, they will 
be true, for pragmatism, in the sense of being good for 
so much. For how much more they are true, will depend 
entirely on their relations to the other truths that also 
have to be acknowledged. 

What I said just now about the Absolute, of transcen- 
dental idealism, is a case in point. First, I called it 
majestic and said it yielded religious comfort to a class 
of minds, and then I accused it of remoteness and steril- 
ity. But so far as it affords such comfort, it surely is not 
sterile; it has that amount of value; it performs a concrete 
function. As a good pragmatist, I myself ought to call 


the Absolute true 'in so far forth,' then; and I unhesitat- 
ingly now do so. 

But what does true in so far forth mean in this case? 
To answer, we need only apply the pragmatic method. 
What do believers in the Absolute mean by saying that 
their belief affords them comfort? They mean that since, 
in the Absolute finite evil is 'overruled' already, we may, 
therefore, whenever we wish, treat the temporal as if it 
were potentially the eternal, be sure that we can trust 
its outcome, and, without sin, dismiss our fear and drop 
the worry of our finite responsibility. In short, they mean 
that we have a right ever and anon to take a moral 
holiday, to let the world wag in its own way, feeling 
that its issues are in better hands than ours and are 
none of our business. 

The universe is a system of which the individual mem- 
bers may relax their anxieties occasionally, in which the 
don't-care mood is also right for men, and moral holidays 
in order, that, if I mistake not, is part, at least, of what 
the Absolute is Tenown-as/ that is the great difference in 
our particular experiences which his being true makes, 
for us, that is his cash-value when he is pragmatically 
interpreted. Farther than that the ordinary lay-reader 
in philosophy who thinks favorably of absolute idealism 
does not venture to sharpen his conceptions. He can use 
the Absolute for so much, and so much is very precious. 
He is pained at hearing you speak incredulously of the 
Absolute, therefore, and disregards your criticisms be- 
cause they deal with aspects of the conception that he 
fails to follow. 

If the Absolute means this, and means no more than 
this, who can possibly deny the truth of it? To deny it 
would be to insist that men should never relax, and that 
holidays are never in order. 

I am well aware how odd it must seem to some of 
you to hear me say that an idea is 'true* so long as to 

What Pragmatism Means 59 

believe it is profitable to our lives. That it is good, for 
as much as it profits, you will gladly admit. If what we 
do by its aid is good, you will allow the idea itself to 
be good in so far forth, for we are the better for pos- 
sessing it But is it not a strange misuse of the word 
'truth,* you will say, to call ideas also 'true* for this reason? 

To answer this difficulty fully is impossible at this stage 
of my account You touch here upon the very central 
point of Messrs. Schiller's, Dewey's and my own doctrine 
of truth, which I can not discuss with detail until my 
sixth lecture. Let me now say only this, that truth is 
one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a 
category distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it. 
The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be 
good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, 
assignable reasons. Surely you must admit this, that if 
there were no good for lif e in true ideas, or if the knowl- 
edge of them were positively disadvantageous and false 
ideas the only useful ones, then the current notion that 
truth is divine and precious, and its pursuit a duty, could 
never have grown up or become a dogma. In a world 
like that, our duty would be to shun truth, rather. But 
in this world, just as certain foods are not only agreeable 
to our taste, but good for our teeth, our stomach, and 
our tissues; so certain ideas are not only agreeable to 
think about, or agreeable as supporting other ideas that 
we are fond of, but they are also helpful in life's practical 
struggles. If there be any life that it is really better we 
should lead, and if there be any idea which, if believed 
in, would help us to lead that life, then it would be 
really better for us to believe in that idea, unless, indeed, 
belief in it incidentally clashed with other greater vital 

'What would be better for us to believe'! This sounds 
very like a definition of truth. It comes very near to 
saying 'what we ought to believe': and in that definition 


none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not 
to believe what it is better -for us to believe? And can 
we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and 
what is true for us, permanently apart? 

Pragmatism says no, and I fully agree with her. Prob- 
ably you also agree, so far as the abstract statement goes, 
but with a suspicion that if we practically did believe 
everything that made for good in our own personal lives, 
we should be found indulging all kinds of fancies about 
this world's affairs, and all kinds of sentimental super- 
stitions about a world hereafter. Your suspicion here is 
undoubtedly well founded, and it is evident that some- 
thing happens when you pass from the abstract to the 
concrete that complicates the situation. 

I said just now that what is better for us to believe 
is true unless the belief incidentally clashes with some 
other vital benefit. Now in real life what vital benefits 
is any particular belief of ours most liable to clash with? 
What indeed except the vital benefits yielded by other 
beliefs when these prove incompatible with the first 
ones? In other words, the greatest enemy of any one of 
our truths may be the rest of our truths. Truths have once 
for all this desperate instinct of self-preservation and of 
desire to extinguish whatever contradicts them. My be- 
lief in the Absolute, based on the good it does me, must 
run the gauntlet of all my other beliefs. Grant that it 
may be true in giving me a moral holiday. Nevertheless, 
as I conceive it, and let me speak now confidentially, as 
it were, and merely in my own private person, it clashes 
with other truths of mine whose benefits I hate to give 
up on its account. It happens to be associated with a 
kind of logic of which I am the enemy, I find that it 
entangles me in metaphysical paradoxes that are inac- 
ceptable, etc., etc. But as I have enough trouble in Me 
already without adding the trouble of carrying these in- 
tellectual inconsistencies, I personally just give up the 

What Pragmatism Means 61 

Absolute. I just take my moral holidays; or else as a 
professional philosopher, I try to justify them by some 
other principle. 

If I could restrict my notion of the Absolute to its bare 
holiday-giving value, it wouldn't clash with any other 
truths. But we can not easily thus restrict our hypotheses. 
They carry supernumerary features, and these it is that 
clash so. My disbelief in the Absolute means then dis- 
belief in those other supernumerary features, for I fully 
believe in the legitimacy of taking moral holidays. 

You see by this what I meant when I called pragma- 
tism a mediator and reconciler and said, borrowing the 
word from Papini, that she 'unstiffens* our theories. She 
has in fact no prejudices whatever, no obstructive dog- 
mas, no rigid canons of what shall count as proof. She 
is completely genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, 
she will consider any evidence. It follows that in the 
religious field she is at a great advantage both over 
positivistic empiricism, with its anti-theological bias, and 
over religious rationalism, with its exclusive interest in 
the remote, the noble, the simple, and the abstract in the 
way of conception. 

In short, she widens the field of search for God. Ration- 
alism sticks to logic and the empyrean. Empiricism sticks 
to the external senses. Pragmatism is willing to take any- 
thing, to follow either logic or the senses and to count 
the humblest and most personal experiences. She will 
count mystical experiences if they have practical con- 
sequences. She will take a God who lives in the very 
dirt of private fact if that should seem a likely place to 
find "him. 

Her only test of probable truth is what works best in 
the way of leading us, what fits every part of life best 
and combines with the collectivity of experience's de- 
mands, nothing being omitted. If theological ideas should 
do this, if the notion of God, in particular, should prove 


to do it, how could pragmatism possibly deny God's 
existence? She could see no meaning in treating as *not 
true* a notion that was pragmatically so successful. What 
other kind of truth could there be, for her, than all this 
agreement with concrete reality? 

In my last lecture I shall return again to the relations 
of pragmatism with religion. But you see already how 
democratic she is. Her manners are as various and flex- 
ible, her resources as rich and endless, and her con- 
clusions as friendly as those of mother nature. 

THREE: Some Metaphysical Problems 
Pragmatically Considered 



I am now to make the pragmatic method more familiar 
by giving you some illustrations of its application to 
particular problems. I will begin with what is driest, and 
the first thing I shall take will be the problem of Sub- 
stance. Every one uses the old distinction between sub- 
stance and attribute, enshrined as it is in the very 
structure of human language, in the difference between 
grammatical subject and predicate. Here is a bit of black- 
board crayon. Its modes, attributes, properties, accidents, 
or affections, use which term you will, are whiteness, 
friability, cylindrical shape, insolubility in water, etc., etc. 
But the bearer of these attributes is so much chalk, which 
thereupon is called the substance in which they inhere. 
So the attributes of this desk inhere in the substance 
'wood/ those of my coat in the substance 'wool,* and so 
forth. Chalk, wood and wool, show again, in spite of 
their differences, common properties, and in so far forth 
they are themselves counted as modes of a still more pri- 
mal substance, matter, the attributes of which are space- 
occupancy and impenetrability. Similarly our thoughts 
and feelings are affections or properties of our several 



souls, which are substances, but again not wholly in their 
own right, for they are modes of the still deeper sub- 
stance 'spirit/ 

Now it was very early seen that all we know of the 
chalk is the whiteness, friability, etc,, all we know of the 
wood is the combustibility and fibrous structure. A 
group of attributes is what each substance here is known- 
as, they form its sole cash-value for our actual experi- 
ence. The substance is in every case revealed through 
them; if we were cut off from them we should never 
suspect its existence; and if God should keep sending 
them to us in an unchanged order, miraculously anni- 
hilating at a certain moment the substance that sup- 
ported them, we never could detect the moment, for our 
experiences themselves would be unaltered. Nominalists 
accordingly adopt the opinion that substance is a spuri- 
ous idea due to our inveterate human trick of turning 
names into things. Phenomena come in groups the 
chalk-group, the wood-group, etc., and each group gets 
its name. The name we then treat as in a way supporting 
the group of phenomena. The low thermometer to-day, 
for instance, is supposed to come from something called 
the 'climate/ Climate is really only the name for a cer- 
tain group of days, but it is treated as if it lay behind the 
day, and in general we place the name, as if it were a 
being, behind the facts it is the name of. But the phe- 
nomenal properties of things, nominalists say, surely do 
not really inhere in names, and if not in names then 
they do not inhere in anything. They adhere, or cohere, 
rather, with each other, and the notion of a substance 
inaccessible to us, which we think accounts for such 
cohesion by supporting it, as cement might support 
pieces of mosaic, must be abandoned. The fact of the 
bare cohesion itself is all that the notion of the substance 
signifies. Behind that fact is nothing. 

Scholasticism has taken the notion of substance from 

Some Metaphysical Problems 67 

common sense and made it very technical and articulate. 
Few things would seem to have fewer pragmatic conse- 
quences for us than substances, cut off as we are from 
every contact with them. Yet in one case scholasticism 
has proved the importance of the substance-idea by treat- 
ing it pragmatically. I refer to certain disputes about the 
mystery of the Eucharist. Substance here would appear 
to have momentous pragmatic value. Since the accidents 
of the wafer don't change in the Lord's supper, and yet 
it has become the very body of Christ, it must be that 
the change is in the substance solely. The bread- 
substance must have been withdrawn, and the divine 
substance substituted miraculously without altering the 
immediate sensible properties. But tho these don't alter, 
a tremendous difference has been made, no less a one 
than this, that we who take the sacrament, now feed 
upon the very substance of divinity. The substance- 
notion breaks into life, then, with tremendous effect, if 
once you allow that substances can separate from their 
accidents, and exchange these latter. 

This is the only pragmatic application of the 
substance-idea with which I am acquainted; and it is 
obvious that it will only be treated seriously by those 
who already believe in the 'real presence' on independ- 
ent grounds. 

Material substance was criticised by Berkeley with 
such telling effect that his name has reverberated 
through all subsequent philosophy. Berkeley's treatment 
of the notion of matter is so well known as to need 
hardly more than a mention. So far from denying the 
external world which we know, Berkeley corroborated 
it. It was the scholastic notion of a material substance 
unapproachable by us, behind the external world, 
deeper and more real than it, and needed to support it, 
which Berkeley maintained to be the most effective of all 
reducers of tie external world to unreality. Abolish 


that substance, he said, believe that God, whom you can 
understand and approach, sends you the sensible world 
directly, and you confirm the latter and back it up by 
his divine authority. Berkeley's criticism of 'matter' was 
consequently absolutely pragmatistic. Matter is known as 
our sensations of colour, figure, hardness and the like. 
They are the cash-value of the term. The difference 
matter makes to us by truly being is that we then get 
such sensations; by not being, is that we lack them. These 
sensations then are its sole meaning. Berkeley doesn't 
deny matter, then; he simply tells us what it consists of. 
It is a true name for just so much in the way of sensa- 

Locke, and later Hume, applied a similar pragmatic 
criticism to the notion of spiritual substance. I will only 
mention Locke's treatment of our 'personal identity.' He 
immediately reduces this notion to its pragmatic value in 
terms of experience. It means, he says, so much 'con- 
sciousness,' namely the fact that at one moment of life 
we remember other moments, and feel them all as parts 
of one and the same personal history. Rationalism had 
explained this practical continuity in our life by the 
unity of our soul-substance. But Locke says: suppose 
that God should take away the consciousness, should we 
be any the better for having still the soul-principle? Sup- 
pose he annexed the same consciousness to different 
souls, should we, as we realize ourselves, be any the worse 
for that fact? In Locke's day the soul was chiefly a thing 
to be rewarded or punished. See how Locke, discussing 
it from this point of view, keeps the question pragmatic: 

"Suppose," he says, "one to think himself to be the 
same soul that once was Nestor or Thersites. Can he 
think their actions his own any more than the actions of 
any other man that ever existed? But let him once find 
himself conscious of any of the actions of Nestor, he then 
finds himself the same person with Nestor ... In this 

Some Metaphysical Problems 69 

personal identity is founded all the right and justice of 
reward and punishment It may be reasonable to think, 
no one shall be made to answer for what he knows 
nothing of, but shall receive his doom, his consciousness 
accusing or excusing. Supposing a man punished now 
for what he had done in another life, whereof he could 
be made to have no consciousness at all, what difference 
is there between that punishment and being created mis- 

Our personal identity, then, consists, for Locke, solely 
in pragmatically definable particulars. Whether, apart 
from these verifiable facts, it also inheres in a spiritual 
principle, is a merely curious speculation. Locke, com- 
promiser that he was, passively tolerated the belief in a 
substantial soul behind our consciousness. But his suc- 
cessor Hume, and most empirical psychologists after 
him, have denied the soul, save as the name for verifiable 
cohesions in our inner life. They redescend into the 
stream of experience with it, and cash it into so much 
small-change value in the way of 'ideas* and their pecul- 
iar connexions with each other. As I said of Berkeley's 
matter, the soul is good or 'true* for just so much, but 
no more. 

The mention of material substance naturally suggests 
the doctrine of 'materialism,* but philosophical materi- 
alism is not necessarily knit up with belief in 'matter,* as 
a metaphysical principle. One may deny matter in that 
sense, as strongly as Berkeley did, one may be a phenom- 
enalist like Huxley, and yet one may still be a materialist 
in the wider sense, of explaining higher phenomena by 
lower ones, and leaving the destinies of the world at 
the mercy of its blinder parts and forces. It is in this 
wider sense of the word that materialism is opposed to 
spiritualism or theism. The laws of physical nature are 
what run things, materialism says. The highest produc- 
tions of human genius might be ciphered by one who 

had complete acquaintance with the facts, out of their 
physiological conditions, regardless whether nature be 
there only for our minds, as idealists contend, or not. 
Our minds in any case would have to record the kind of 
nature it is, and write it down as operating through 
blind laws of physics. This is the complexion of present 
day materialism, which may better be called naturalism. 
Over against it stands 'theism/ or what in a wide sense 
may be termed 'spiritualism/ Spiritualism says that mind 
not only witnesses and records things, but also runs and 
operates them: the world being thus guided, not by its 
lower, but by its higher element. 

Treated as it often is, this question becomes little 
more than a conflict between aesthetic preferences. Mat- 
ter is gross, coarse, crass, muddy; spirit is pure, elevated, 
noble; and since it is more consonant with the dignity 
of the universe to give the primacy in it to what appears 
superior, spirit must be affirmed as the ruling principle. 
To treat abstract principles as finalities, before which 
our intellects may come to rest in a state of admiring 
contemplation, is the great rationalist failing. Spiritual- 
ism, as often held, may be simply a state of admiration 
for one kind, and of dislike for another kind, of abstrac- 
tion. I remember a worthy spiritualist professor who 
always referred to materialism as the 'mud-philosophy/ 
and deemed it thereby refuted. 

To such spiritualism as this there is an easy answer, 
and Mr. Spencer makes it effectively. In some well- 
written pages at the end of the first volume of his Psy- 
chology he shows us that a 'matter' so infinitely subtile, 
and performing motions as inconceivably quick and fine 
as those which modern science postulates in her explana- 
tions, has no trace of grossness left. He shows that the 
conception of spirit, as we mortals hitherto have framed 
it, is itself too gross to cover the exquisite tenuity of 
nature s facts. Both terms, he says, are but symbols, point- 

Some Metaphysical Problems 71 

ing to that one unknowable reality in which their oppo- 
sitions cease. 

To an abstract objection an abstract rejoinder suffices; 
and so far as one's opposition to materialism springs 
from one's disdain of matter as something 'crass/ Mr. 
Spencer cuts the ground from under one. Matter is in- 
deed infinitely and incredibly refined. To any one who 
has ever looked on the face of a dead child or parent the 
mere fact that matter could have taken for a time that 
precious form, ought to make matter sacred ever after. 
It makes no difference what the principle of life may be, 
material or immaterial, matter at any rate co-operates, 
lends itself to all life's purposes. That beloved incarna- 
tion was among matter's possibilities. 

But now, instead of resting in principles, after this 
stagnant intellectualist fashion, let us apply the prag- 
matic method to the question. What do we mean by 
matter? What practical difference can it make now that 
the world should be run by matter or by spirit? I think 
we find that the problem takes with this a rather differ- 
ent character. 

And first of all I call your attention to a curious fact. 
It makes not a single jot of difference so far as the past of 
the world goes, whether we deem it to have been the work 
of matter or whether we think a divine spirit was its 

Imagine, in fact, the entire contents of the world to 
be once for all irrevocably given. Imagine it to end this 
very moment, and to have no future; and then let a 
theist and a materialist apply their rival explanations to 
its history. The theist shows how a God made it; the 
materialist shows, and we will suppose with equal suc- 
cess, how it resulted from blind physical forces. Then let 
the pragmatist be asked to choose between their theories. 
How can he apply his test if a world is already com- 
pleted? Concepts for him are things to come back into 


experience with, things to make us look for differences. 
But by hypothesis there is to be no more experience 
and no possible differences can now be looked for. Both 
theories have shown all their consequences and, by the 
hypothesis we are adopting, these are identical. The 
pragmatist must consequently say that the two theories, 
in spite of their different-sounding names, mean exactly 
the same thing, and that the dispute is purely verbal. 
[I am supposing, of course, that the theories have been 
equally successful in their explanations of what is.] 

For just consider the case sincerely, and say what 
would be the worth of a God if he were there, with his 
work accomplished and his world run down. He would 
be worth no more than just that world was worth. To 
that amount of result, with its mixed merits and defects, 
his creative power could attain but go no farther. And 
since there is to be no future; since the whole value 
and meaning of the world has been already paid in and 
actualized in the feelings that went with it in the pass- 
ing, and now go with it in the ending; since it draws 
no supplemental significance (such as our real world 
draws) from its function of preparing something yet 
to come; why then, by it we take God's measure, as it 
were* He is the Being who could once for all do that; 
and for that much we are thankful to him, but for noth- 
ing more. But now, on the contrary hypothesis, namely, 
that the bits of matter following their laws could make 
that world and do no less, should we not be just as thank- 
ful to them? Wherein should we suffer loss, then, if we 
dropped God as an hypothesis and made the matter 
alone responsible? Where would any special deadness, 
or crassness, come in? And how, experience being what 
is once for all, would God's presence in it make it any 
more living or richer? 

Candidly, it is impossible to give any answer to this 
question. The actually experienced world is supposed to 

Some Metaphysical Problems 73 

be the same in its details on either hypothesis, 'the same, 
for our praise or blame/ as Browning says. It stands there 
indefeasibly: a gift which can't be taken back. Calling 
matter the cause of it retracts no single one of the items 
that have made it up, nor does calling God the cause 
augment them. They are the God or the atoms, respec- 
tively, of just that and no other world. The God, if there, 
has been doing just what atoms could do appearing in 
the character of atoms, so to speak and earning such 
gratitude as is due to atoms, and no more. If his presence 
lends no different turn or issue to the performance, it 
surely can lend it no increase of dignity. Nor would in- 
dignity come to it were he absent, and did the atoms 
remain only actors on the stage. When a play is once 
over, and the curtain down, you really make it no 
better by claiming an illustrious genius for its author, 
just as you make it no worse by calling him a common 

Thus if no future detail of experience or conduct is 
to be deduced from our hypothesis, the debate between 
materialism and theism becomes quite idle and insignifi- 
cant Matter and God in that event mean exactly the 
same thing the power, namely, neither more nor less, 
that could make just this completed world and the wise 
man is he who in such a case would turn his back on 
such a supererogatory discussion. Accordingly, most men 
instinctively, and positivists and scientists deliberately, 
do turn their backs on philosophical disputes from 
which nothing in the line of definite future consequences 
can be seen to follow* The verbal and empty character 
of philosophy is surely a reproach with which we are 
but too familiar. If pragmatism be true, it is a perfectly 
sound reproach unless the theories under fire can be 
shown to have alternative practical outcomes, however 
delicate and distant these may be. The common man and 
the scientist say they discover no such outcomes, and if 


the metaphysician can discern none either, the others 
certainly are in the right of it, as against him. His science 
is then but pompous trifling; and the endowment of a 
professorship for such a being would be silly. 

Accordingly, in every genuine metaphysical debate 
some practical issue, however conjectural and remote, is 
involved. To realize this, revert with me to our question, 
and place yourselves this time in the world we live in, in 
the world that has a future, that is yet uncompleted 
whilst we speak. In this unfinished world the alternative 
of 'materialism or theism?* is intensely practical; and it is 
worth while for us to spend some minutes of our hour 
in seeing that it is so. 

How, indeed, does the program differ for us, accord- 
ing as we consider that the facts of experience up to date 
are purposeless configurations of blind atoms moving 
according to eternal laws, or that on the other hand 
they are due to the providence of God? As far as the 
past facts go, indeed, there is no difference. Those facts 
are in, are bagged, are captured; and the good that's in 
them is gained, be the atoms or be the God their cause. 
There are accordingly many materialists about us to-day 
who, ignoring altogether the future and practical aspects 
of the question, seek to eliminate the odium attaching 
to the word materialism, and even to eliminate the 
word itself, by showing that, if matter could give birth 
to all these gains, why then matter, functionally consid- 
ered, is just as divine an entity as God, in fact coalesces 
with God, is what you mean by God. Cease, these persons 
advise us, to use either of these terms, with their out- 
grown opposition. Use a term free of the clerical con- 
notations, on the one hand; of the suggestion of gross- 
ness, coarseness, ignobility, on the other. Talk of the 
primal mystery, of the unknowable energy, of the one 
and only power, instead of saying either God or matter. 
This is the course to which Mr. Spencer urges us; and 

Some Metaphysical Problems 75 

if philosophy were purely retrospective, he would 
thereby proclaim himself an excellent pragmatist. 

But philosophy is prospective also, and, after finding 
what the world has been and done, and yielded, still 
asks the further question 'what does the world promise? 
Give us a matter that promises success, that is bound by 
its laws to lead our world ever nearer to perfection, and 
any rational man will worship that matter as readily as 
Mr. Spencer worships his own so-called unknowable 
power. It not only has made for righteousness up to date, 
but it will make for righteousness forever; and that is all 
we need. Doing practically all that a God can do, it is 
equivalent to God, its function is a God's function, and 
in a world in which a God would be superfluous; from 
such a world a God could never lawfully be missed. 'Cos- 
mic emotion' would here be the right name for religion. 

But is the matter by which Mr. Spencer's process of 
cosmic evolution is carried on any such principle of 
never-ending perfection as this? Indeed it is not, for the 
future end of every cosmically evolved thing or system 
of things is foretold by science to be death tragedy; and 
Mr. Spencer, in confining himself to the aesthetic and 
ignoring the practical side of the controversy, has really 
contributed nothing serious to its relief. But apply now 
our principle of practical results, and see what a vital 
significance the question of materialism or theism im- 
mediately acquires. 

Theism and materialism, so indifferent when taken 
retrospectively, point, when we take them prospectively, 
to wholly different outlooks of experience. For, accord- 
ing to the theory of mechanical evolution, the laws of 
redistribution of matter and motion, though they are 
certainly to thank for all the good hours which our or- 
ganisms have ever yielded us and for all the ideals which 
our minds now frame, are yet fatally certain to undo 
their work again, and to redissolve everything that they 


have once evolved. You all know the picture of the last 
state of the universe, which evolutionary science foresees. 
I can not state it better than in Mr. Balfour's words: 
"The energies of our system will decay, the glory of the 
sun will he dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, 
will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment 
disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, 
and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy conscious- 
ness which in this obscure corner has for a brief space 
broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at 
rest Matter will know itself no longer. Imperishable 
monuments* and 'immortal deeds/ death itself, and love 
stronger than death, will be as if they had not been. Nor 
will anything that is, be better or worse for all that the 
labor, genius, devotion, and suffering of man have 
striven through countless ages to effect." * 

That is the sting of it, that in the vast driftings of the 
cosmic weather, though many a jewelled shore appears, 
and many an enchanted cloud-bank floats away, long 
lingering ere it be dissolved even as our world now 
lingers, for our joy yet when these transient products 
are gone, nothing, absolutely nothing remains, to repre- 
sent those particular qualities, those elements of pre- 
tikmsness which they may have enshrined. Dead and 
gone are they, gone utterly from the very sphere and 
room of being. Without an echo; without a memory; 
without an influence on aught that may come after, to 
make it care for similar ideals. This utter final wreck 
and tragedy is of the essence of scientific materialism as 
at present understood. The lower and not the higher 
forces are the eternal forces, or the last surviving forces 
within the only cycle of evolution which we can defi- 
nitely see. Mr. Spencer believes this as much as any one; 
so why should he argue with us as if we were making 
silly aesthetic objections to the 'grossness* of 'matter and 
motion,' the principles of his philosophy, when what 

Some Metaphysical Problems 77 

really dismays us is the disconsolateness of its ulterior 
practical results? 

No, the true objection to materialism is not positive 
but negative. It would be farcical at this day to make 
complaint of it for what it is, for 'grossness/ Crossness is 
what grossness does we now know that . We make com- 
plaint of it, on the contrary, for what it is not not a 
permanent warrant for our more ideal interests, not a ful- 
filler of our remotest hopes. 

The notion of God, on the other hand, however in- 
ferior it may be in clearness to those mathematical no- 
tions so current in mechanical philosophy, has at least 
this practical superiority over tihem, that it guarantees 
an ideal order that shall be permanently preserved. A 
world with a God in it to say the last word, may indeed 
burn up or freeze, but we then think of him as still 
mindful of the old ideals and sure to bring them else- 
where to fruition; so that, where he is, tragedy is only 
provisional and partial, and shipwreck and dissolution 
not the absolutely final things. This need of an eternal 
moral order is one of the deepest needs of our breast. 
And those poets, like Dante and Wordsworth, who live 
on the conviction of such an order, owe to that fact the 
extraordinary tonic and consoling power of their verse. 
Here then, in these different emotional and practical 
appeals, in these adjustments of our concrete attitudes 
of hope and expectation, and all the delicate conse- 
quences which their differences entail, lie the real mean- 
ings of materialism and spiritualism not in hair- 
splitting abstractions about matter's inner essence, or 
about the metaphysical attributes of God. Materialism 
means simply the denial that the moral order is eternal, 
and the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualism means 
the affirmation of an eternal moral order and the let- 
ting loose of hope. Surely here is an issue genuine 
enough, for any one who feels it; and, as long as men 


are men, it will yield matter for a serious philosophic 

But possibly some of you may still rally to their de- 
fence. Even whilst admitting that spiritualism and mate- 
rialism make different prophecies of the world's future, 
you may yourselves pooh-pooh the difference as some- 
thing so infinitely remote as to mean nothing for a sane 
mind. The essence of a sane mind, you may say, is to 
take shorter views, and to feel no concern about such 
chimaeras as the latter end of the world. Well, I can only 
say that if you say this, you do injustice to human nature. 
Religious melancholy is not disposed of by a simple 
flourish of the word insanity. The absolute things, the 
last things, the overlapping things, are the truly philo- 
sophic concerns; all superior minds feel seriously about 
them, and the mind with the shortest views is simply the 
mind of the more shallow man. 

The issues of fact at stake in the debate are of course 
vaguely enough conceived by us at present. But spiritual- 
istic faith in all its forms deals with a world of promise, 
while materialism's sun sets in a sea of disappoint- 
ment Remember what I said of the Absolute: it grants 
us moral holidays. Any religious view does this. It not 
only incites our more strenuous moments, but it also 
takes our joyous, careless, trustful moments, and it justi- 
fies them. It paints the grounds of justification vaguely 
enough, to be sure. The exact features of the saving 
future facts that our belief in God insures, will have to 
be ciphered out by the interminable methods of science: 
we can study our God only by studying his Creation. But 
we can enjoy our God, if we have one, in advance of 
all that labor. I myself believe that the evidence for God 
lies primarily in inner personal experiences. When they 
have once given you your God, his name means at least 
the benefit of the holiday. You remember what I said 
yesterday about the way in which truths dash and try 

Some Metaphysical Problems 79 

to 'down* each other. The truth of 'God' has to run the 
gauntlet of all our other truths. It is on trial by them 
and they on trial by it. Our final opinion about God can 
be settled only after all the truths have straightened 
themselves out together. Let us hope that they shall 
find a modus vivendi! 

Let me pass to a very cognate philosophic problem, 
the question of design in nature. God's existence has 
from time immemorial been held to be proved by cer- 
tain natural facts. Many facts appear as if expressly de- 
signed in view of one another. Thus the woodpecker's 
bill, tongue, feet, tail, etc., fit him wondrously for a 
world of trees, with grubs hid in their bark to feed 
upon. The parts of our eye fit the laws of light to per- 
fection, leading its rays to a sharp picture on our retina. 
Such mutual fitting of things diverse in origin argued 
design, it was held; and the designer was always treated 
as a man-loving deity. 

The first step in these arguments was to prove that the 
design existed. Nature was ransacked for results obtained 
through separate things being co-adapted. Our eyes, for 
instance, originate in intra-uterine darkness, and the 
light originates in the sun, yet see how they fit each 
other. They are evidently made for each other. Vision is 
the end designed, light and eyes the separate means 
devised for its attainment. 

It is strange, considering how unanimously our an- 
cestors felt the force of this argument, to see how little 
it counts for since the triumph of the darwinian theory. 
Darwin opened our minds to the power of chance- 
happenings to bring forth 'fit' results if only they have 
time to add themselves together. He showed the enor- 
mous waste of nature in producing results that get de- 
stroyed because of their unfitness. He also emphasized 
the number of adaptations which, if designed, would 
argue an evil rather than a good designer. Here, all 


depends upon the point of view. To the grub under the 
bark the exquisite fitness of the woodpecker's organism 
to extract him would certainly argue a diabolical de- 

Theologians have by this time stretched their minds 
so as to embrace the darwinian facts, and yet to inter- 
pret them as still showing divine purpose. It used to be a 
question of purpose against mechanism, of one or the 
other. It was as if one should say "My shoes are evidently 
designed to fit my feet, hence it is impossible that they 
should have been produced by machinery." We know 
that they are both: they are made by a machinery itself 
designed to fit the feet with shoes. Theology need only 
stretch similarly the designs of God. As the aim of a 
football-team is not merely to get the ball to a certain 
goal (if that were so, they would simply get up on 
some dark night and place it there), but to get it there 
by a fixed machinery of conditions the game's rules and 
the opposing players; so the aim of God is not merely, 
let us say, to make men and to save them, but rather 
to get this done through the sole agency of nature's 
vast machinery. Without nature's stupendous laws and 
counter-forces, man's creation and perfection, we might 
suppose, would be too insipid achievements for God to 
have proposed them. 

This saves the form of the design-argument at tihe 
expense of its old easy human content The designer is 
no longer the old man-like deity. His designs have grown 
so vast as to be incomprehensible to us humans. The 
what of them so overwhelms us that to establish the mere 
that of a designer for them becomes of very little con- 
sequence in comparison. We can with difficulty compre- 
hend the character of a cosmic mind whose purposes are 
fully revealed by the strange mixture of goods and evils 
that we find in this actual world's particulars. Or rather 
we cannot by any possibility comprehend it. The mere 

Some Metaphysical Problems 81 

word 'design* by itself has no consequences and explains 
nothing. It is the barrenest of principles. The old ques- 
tion of whether there is design is idle. The real question 
is what is the world, whether or not it have a designer 
and that can be revealed only by the study of all nature's 

Remember that no matter what nature may have pro- 
duced or may be producing, the means must necessarily 
have been adequate, must have been -fitted to that pro- 
duction. The argument from fitness to design would con- 
sequently always apply, whatever were the product's 
character. The recent Mont-Pel6e eruption, for example, 
required all previous history to produce that exact 
combination of ruined houses, human and animal 
corpses, sunken ships, volcanic ashes, etc., in just that one 
hideous configuration of positions. France had to be a 
nation and colonize Martinique. Our country had to 
exist and send our ships there. If God aimed at just that 
result, the means by which the centuries bent their in- 
fluences towards it, showed exquisite intelligence. And so 
of any state of things whatever, either in nature or in 
history, which we find actually realized. For the parts of 
things must always make some definite resultant, be it 
chaotic or harmonious. When we look at what has actu- 
ally come, the conditions must always appear perfectly 
designed to ensure it. We can always say, therefore, in 
any conceivable world, of any conceivable character, 
that the whole cosmic machinery may have been de- 
signed to produce it. 

Pragmatically, then, the abstract word 'design' is a 
blank cartridge. It carries no consequences, it does no 
execution. What design? and what designer? are the only 
serious questions, and the study of facts is the only way 
of getting even approximate answers. Meanwhile, pend- 
ing the slow answer from facts, any one who insists that 
there is a designer and who is sure he is a divine one, gets 


a certain pragmatic benefit from the term the same, in 
fact, which we saw that the terms God, Spirit, or the 
Absolute, yield us. 'Design/ worthless tho it be as a mere 
rationalistic principle set above or behind things for our 
admiration, becomes, if our faith concretes it into some- 
thing theistic, a term of promise. Returning with it into 
experience, we gain a more confiding outlook on the 
future. If not a blind force but a seeing force runs things, 
we may reasonably expect better issues. This vague 
confidence in the future is the sole pragmatic meaning 
at present discernible in the terms design and designer. 
But if cosmic confidence is right not wrong, better not 
worse, that is a most important meaning. That much at 
least of possible 'truth' the terms will then have in them. 

Let me take up another well-worn controversy, the 
free-toill problem. Most persons who believe in what is 
called their free-will do so after the rationalistic fashion. 
It is a principle, a positive faculty or virtue added to 
man, by which his dignity is enigmatically augmented. 
He ought to believe it for this reason. Determinists, who 
deny it, who say that individual men originate nothing, 
but merely transmit to the future the whole push of the 
past cosmos of which they are so small an expression, 
diminish man. He is less admirable, stripped of this crea- 
tive principle. I imagine that more than half of you share 
our instinctive belief in free-will, and that admiration of 
it as a principle of dignity has much to do with your 

But free-will has also been discussed pragmatically, 
and, strangely enough, the same pragmatic interpreta- 
tion has been put upon it by both disputants. You know 
how large a part questions of accountability have 
pkyed in ethical controversy. To hear some persons, one 
would suppose that all that ethics aims at is a code of 
merits and demerits. Thus does the old legal and theo- 

Some Metaphysical Problems 83 

logical leaven, the interest in crime and sin and punish- 
ment abide with us. Who's to blame? whom can we 
punish? whom will God punish?* these preoccupations 
hang like a bad dream over man's religious history. 

So both free-will and determinism have been in- 
veighed against and called absurd, because each, in the 
eyes of its enemies, has seemed to prevent the 'imputa- 
bility' of good or bad deeds to their authors. Queer anti- 
nomy this! Free-will means novelty, the grafting on to 
the past of something not involved therein. If our acts 
were predetermined, if we merely transmitted the push 
of the whole past, the free-willists say, how could we be 
praised or blamed for anything? We should be 'agents' 
only, not 'principals/ and where then would be our pre- 
cious imputability and responsibility? 

But where would it be if we had free-will? rejoin the 
determinists. If a 'free' act be a sheer novelty, that comes 
not from me, the previous me, but ex nihilo, and sim- 
ply tacks itself on to me, how can I, the previous I, be 
responsible? How can I have any permanent character 
that will stand still long enough for praise or blame 
to be awarded? The chaplet of my days tumbles into a 
cast of disconnected beads as soon as the thread of inner 
necessity is drawn out by the preposterous indetennin- 
ist doctrine. Messrs. Fullerton and McTaggart have re- 
cently laid about them doughtily with this argument 

It may be good ad hominem, but otherwise it is pitiful. 
For I ask you, quite apart from other reasons, whether 
any man, woman or child, with a sense for realities, 
ought not to be ashamed to plead such principles as 
either dignity or imputability. Instinct and utility be- 
tween them can safely be trusted to carry on the social 
business of punishment and praise. If a man does good 
acts we shall praise him, if he does bad acts we shall 
punish him, anyhow, and quite apart from theories as 
to whether the acts result from what was previous ID 


him or are novelties in a strict sense. To make our hu- 
man ethics revolve about the question of *merif is a 
piteous unreality God alone can know our merits, if we 
have any. The real ground for supposing free-will is in- 
deed pragmatic, but it has nothing to do with this con- 
temptible right to punish which has made such a noise in 
past discussions of the subject. 

Free-will pragmatically means novelties in the world, 
the right to expect that in its deepest elements as well as 
in its surface phenomena, the future may not identically 
repeat and imitate the past. That imitation en masse 
is there, who can deny? The general 'uniformity of na- 
ture* is presupposed by every lesser law. But nature may 
be only approximately uniform; and persons in whom 
knowledge of the world's past has bred pessimism (or 
doubts as to the world's good character, which become 
certainties if that character be supposed eternally fixed) 
may naturally welcome free-will as a melioristic doctrine. 
It holds up improvement as at least possible; whereas de- 
terminism assures us that our whole notion of possibility 
is born of human ignorance, and that necessity and im- 
possibility between them rule the destinies of the world. 
Free-will is thus a general cosmological theory of 
promise, just like the Absolute, God, Spirit or Design. 
Taken abstractly, no one of these terms has any inner 
content, none of them gives us any picture, and no one 
of them would retain the least pragmatic value in a 
world whose character was obviously perfect from the 
start. Elation at mere existence, pure cosmic emotion and 
delight, would, it seems to me, quench all interest in 
those speculations, if the world were nothing but a lub- 
berland of happiness already. Our interest in religious 
metaphysics arises in the fact that our empirical future 
feels to us unsafe, and needs some higher guarantee. If 
the past and present were purely good, who could wish 

Some Metaphysical Problems 85 

that the future might possibly not resemble them? Who 
could desire free-will? Who would not say, with Huxley, 
let me be wound up every day like a watch, to go right 
fatally, and I ask no better freedom.' 'Freedom' in a 
world already perfect could only mean freedom to be 
worse, and who could be so insane as to wish that? To 
be necessarily what it is, to be impossibly aught else, 
would put the last touch of perfection upon optimism's 
universe. Surely the only possibility that one can ration- 
ally claim is the possibility that things may be better, 
That possibility, I need hardly say, is one that, as the 
actual world goes, we have ample grounds for desiderat- 

Free-will thus has no meaning unless it be a doctrine 
of relief. As such, it takes its place with other religious 
doctrines. Between them, they build up the old wastes 
and repair the former desolations. Our spirit, shut 
within this courtyard of sense-experience, is always say- 
ing to the intellect upon -the tower: ^Watchman, tell us 
of the night, if it aught of promise bear,' and the intellect 
gives it then these terms of promise. 

Other than this practical significance, the words God, 
free-will, design, etc., have none. Yet dark tho they be in 
themselves, or intellectualistically taken, when we bear 
them into life's thicket with us the darkness there grows 
light about us. If you stop, in dealing with such words, 
with their definition, thinking that to be an intellectual 
finality, where are you? Stupidly staring at a pretentious 
sham! TDeus est Ens, a se, extra et supra omne genus, 
necessarium, unum, infinite perfectum, simplex, immuta- 
bile, immensum, aeternum, intelligens," etc., wherein 
is such a definition really instructive? It means less than 
nothing, in its pompous robe of adjectives. Pragmatism 
alone can read a positive meaning into it, and for that 
she turns her back upon the intellectualist point of view 


altogether. 'God's in Ms heaven; all's right with the 
world!' That's the real heart of your theology, and for 
that you need no rationalist definitions. 

Why shouldn't all of us, rationalists as well as prag- 
matists, confess this? Pragmatism, so far from keeping her 
eyes bent on the immediate practical foreground, as she 
is accused of doing, dwells just as much upon the world's 
remotest perspectives. 

See then how all these ultimate questions turn, as it 
were, upon their hinges; and from looking backwards 
upon principles, upon an erkenntnisstheoretische Ich, a 
God, a Kausditatsprinzip, a Design, a Free-will, taken in 
themselves, as something august and exalted above facts, 
see, I say, how pragmatism shifts the emphasis and 
looks forward into facts themselves. The really vital ques- 
tion for us all is, What is this world going to be? What is 
life eventually to make of itself? w The centre of gravity of 
philosophy must therefore alter its place. The earth of 
things, long thrown into shadow by the glories of the 
upper ether, must resume its rights. To shift the em- 
phasis in this way means that philosophic questions will 
fall to be treated by minds of a less abstractionist type 
than heretofore, minds more scientific and individual- 
istic in their tone yet not irreligious either. It will be an 
alteration in *the seat of authority' that reminds one 
almost of the protestant reformation. And as, to papal 
minds, protestantism has often seemed a mere mess of 
anarchy and confusion, such, no doubt, will pragmatism 
often seem to ultra-rationalist minds in philosophy. It 
will seem so much sheer trash, philosophically. But life 
wags on, all the same, and compasses its ends, in prot- 
estant countries. I venture to think that philosophic 
protestantism will compass a not dissimilar prosperity. 

FOUR: The One and the Many 



We saw in the last lecture that the pragmatic method, in 
its dealings with certain concepts, instead of ending with 
admiring contemplation, plunges forward into the river 
of experience with them and prolongs the perspective 
by their means. Design, free-will, the absolute mind, 
spirit instead of matter, have for their sole meaning a 
better promise as to this world's outcome. Be they false 
or be they true, the meaning of them is this meliorism. I 
have sometimes thought of the phenomenon called 'total 
reflexion* in Optics as a good symbol of the relation 
between abstract ideas and concrete realities, as prag- 
matism conceives it. Hold a tumbler of water a little 
above your eyes and look up through the water at its 
surface or better still look similarly through the flat 
wall of an aquarium. You will then see an extraordi- 
narily brilliant reflected image say of a candle-flame, or 
any other clear object, situated on the opposite side of 
the vessel. No ray, under these circumstances, gets be- 
yond the water's surface: every ray is totally reflected 
back into the depths again. Now let the water represent 
the world of sensible facts, and let the air above it 
represent the world of abstract ideas. Both worlds are 



real, of course, and interact; but they interact only at 
their boundary, and the locus of everything that lives, 
and happens to us, so far as full experience goes, is the 
water. We are like fishes swimming in the sea of sense, 
bounded above by the superior element, but unable to 
breathe it pure or penetrate it. We get our oxygen from 
it, however, we touch it incessantly, now in this part, 
now in that, and every time we touch it, we turn back 
into the water with our course re-determined and re-en- 
ergized. The abstract ideas of which the air consists are 
indispensable for life, but irrespirable by themselves, as 
it were, and only active in their re-directing function. All 
similes are halting, but this one rather takes my fancy. It 
shows how something, not sufficient for life in itself, may 
nevertheless be an effective determinant of life elsewhere. 

In this present hour I wish to illustrate the pragmatic 
method by one more application. I wish to turn its light 
upon the ancient problem of 'the one and the many/ I 
suspect that in but few of you has this problem occa- 
sioned sleepless nights, and I should not be astonished if 
some of you told me it had never vexed you at all. 
I myself have come, by long brooding over it, to consider 
it the most central of all philosophic problems, central 
because so pregnant. I mean by this that if you know 
whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist, 
you perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions 
than if you give him any other name ending in ist. To 
believe in the one or in the many, that is the classifica- 
tion with the maximum number of consequences. So 
bear with me for an hour while I try to inspire you with 
my own interest in this problem. 

Philosophy has often been defined as the quest or the 
vision of the world's unity. Few persons ever challenge 
this definition, which is true as far as it goes, for philoso- 
phy has indeed manifested above all things its interest in 
unity. But how about the variety in firings? Is that such 

The One and the Many 91 

an irrelevant matter? If instead of using the term philos- 
ophy, we talk in general of our intellect and its needs, we 
quickly see that unity is on"*y one of them. Acquaintance 
with the details of fact is always reckoned, along with 
their reduction to system, as an indispensable mark of 
mental greatness. Your 'scholarly' mind, of encyclopedic, 
philological type, your man essentially of learning, has 
never lacked for praise along with your philosopher. 
What our intellect really aims at is neither variety nor 
unity taken singly, but totality. 1 In this, acquaintance 
with reality's diversities is as important as understand- 
ing their connexion. Curiosity goes pan passu with the 
systematizing passion. 

In spite of this obvious fact the unity of things has 
always been considered more illustrious, as it were, than 
their variety. When a young man first conceives the 
notion that the whole world forms one great fact, with 
all its parts moving abreast, as it were, and interlocked, 
he feels as if he were enjoying a great insight, and looks 
superciliously on all who still fall short of this sublime 
conception. Taken thus abstractly as it first comes to one, 
the monistic insight is so vague as hardly to seem worth 
defending intellectually. Yet probably every one in this 
audience in some way cherishes it. A certain abstract 
monism, a certain emotional response to the character of 
oneness, as if it were a feature of the world not co- 
ordinate with its manyness, but vastly more excellent and 
eminent, is so prevalent in educated circles that we might 
almost call it a part of philosophic common sense. Of 
course the world is One, we say. How else could it be a 
world at all? Empiricists as a rule are as stout monists 
of this abstract kind as rationalists are. 

The difference is that the empiricists are less dazzled. 
Unity doesn't blind them to everything else, doesn't 
quench their curiosity for special facts, whereas there is a 
kind of rationalist who is sure to interpret abstract unity 


mystically and to forget everything else, to treat it as a 
principle; to admire and worship it; and thereupon to 
come to a full stop intellectually. 

The world is One!' the formula may become a sort 
of number-worship. Three' and 'seven' have, it is true, 
been reckoned sacred numbers; but, abstractly taken, 
why is 'one' more excellent than 'forty-three/ or than 
'two million and ten*? In this first vague conviction of the 
world's unity, there is so little to take hold of that we 
hardly know what we mean by it. 

The only way to get forward with our notion is to 
treat it pragmatically. Granting the oneness to exist, 
what facts will be different in consequence? What will 
the unity be known as? The world is One yes, but how 
one. What is the practical value of the oneness for us. 

Asking such questions, we pass from the vague to the 
definite, from the abstract to the concrete. Many distinct 
ways in which a oneness predicated of the universe might 
make a difference, come to view. I will note successively 
the more obvious of these ways. 

i. First, the world is at least one subject of discourse. 
If its manyness were so irremediable as to permit no 
union whatever of its parts, not even our minds could 
'mean* the whole of it at once: they would be like eyes 
trying to look in opposite directions. But in point of fact 
we mean to cover the whole of it by our abstract term 
'world' or 'universe/ which expressly intends that no 
part shall be left out. Such unity of discourse carries 
obviously no farther monistic specifications. A 'chaos/ 
once so named, has as much unity of discourse as a 
cosmos. It is an odd fact that many monists consider a 
great victory scored for their side when pluralists say 
'the universe is many/ * The Universe'!" they chuckle 
*his speech bewrayeth him. He stands confessed of mon- 
ism out of his own mouth." Well, let things be one in so 
far forth! You can then fling such a word as universe at 

The One and the Many 93 

the whole collection of them, but what matters it? It 
still remains to be ascertained whether they are one in 
any further or more valuable sense. 

2. Are they, for example, continuous? Can you pass 
from one to another, keeping always in your one uni- 
verse without any danger of falling out? In other words, 
do the parts of our universe hang together, instead of 
being like detached grains of sand? 

Even grains of sand hang together through the space 
in which they are embedded, and if you can in any way 
move through such space, you can pass continuously 
from number one of them to number two. Space and 
time are thus vehicles of continuity by which the world's 
parts hang together. The practical difference to us, re- 
sultant from these forms of union, is immense. Our whole 
motor life is based upon them, 

3. There are innumerable other paths of practical 
continuity among things. Lines of influence can be 
traced by which they hang together. Following any such 
line you pass from one thing to another till you may have 
covered a good part of the universe's extent Gravity and 
heat-conduction are such all-uniting influences, so far as 
the physical world goes. Electric, luminous and chemical 
influences follow similar lines of influence. But opaque 
and inert bodies interrupt the continuity here, so that 
you have to step round them, or change your mode of 
progress if you wish to get farther on that day. Practi- 
cally, you have then lost your universe's unity, so far as it 
was constituted by those first lines of influence. 

There are innumerable kinds of connexion that spe- 
cial things have with other special things; and the ensem- 
ble of any one of these connexions forms one sort of 
system by which things are conjoined. Thus men are 
conjoined in a vast network of acquaintanceship. Brown 
knows Jones, Jones knows Robinson, etc.; and by choos- 
ing your farther intermediaries rightly you may carry a 


message from Jones to the Empress of China, or the 
Chief of the African Pigmies, or to any one else in the 
inhabited world. But you are stopped short, as by a 
non-conductor, when you choose one man wrong in this 
experiment What may be called love-systems are grafted 
on the acquaintance-system. A loves (or hates) B; B 
loves (or hates) C, etc. But these systems are smaller 
than the great acquaintance-system that they presuppose. 
Human efforts are daily unifying the world more and 
more in definite systematic ways. We found colonial, 
postal, consular, commercial systems, all the parts of 
which obey definite influences that propagate themselves 
within the system but not to facts outside of it. The 
result is innumerable little hangings-together of the 
world's parts within the larger hangings-together, little 
worlds, not only of discourse but of operation, within 
the wider universe. Each system exemplifies one type or 
grade of union, its parts being strung on that peculiar 
land of relation, and the same part may figure in many 
different systems, as a man may hold various offices and 
belong to several clubs. From this 'systematic* point of 
view, therefore, the pragmatic value of the world's unity 
is that all these definite networks actually and practically 
exist. Some are more enveloping and extensive, some less 
so; they are superposed upon each other; and between 
them all they let no individual elementary part of the 
universe escape. Enormous as is the amount of discon- 
nexion among things (for these systematic influences and 
conjunctions follow rigidly exclusive paths), everything 
that exists is influenced in some way by something else, 
if you can only pick the way out rightly. Loosely speak- 
ing, and in general, it may be said that all things cohere 
and adhere to each other somehow, and that the uni- 
verse exists practically in reticulated or concatenated 
forms which make of it a continuous or 'integrated' 
affair. Any kind of influence whatever helps to make the 

The One and the Many 95 

world one, so far as you can follow it from next to next. 
You may then say that 'the world is One,' meaning in 
these respects, namely, and just so far as they obtain. But 
just as definitely is it not One, so far as they do not 
obtain; and there is no species of connexion which will 
not fail, if, instead of choosing conductors for it you 
choose non-conductors. You are then arrested at your 
very first step and have to write the world down as a pure 
many from that particular point of view. If our intellect 
had been as much interested in disjunctive as it is in 
conjunctive relations, philosophy would have equally suc- 
cessfully celebrated the world's disunion. 

The great point is to notice that the oneness and the 
manyness are absolutely co-ordinate here. Neither is pri- 
mordial or more essential or excellent than the other. 
Just as with space, whose separating of things seems 
exactly on a par with its uniting of them, but sometimes 
one function and sometimes the other is what comes 
home to us most, so, in our general dealings with the 
world of influences, we now need conductors and now 
need non-conductors, and wisdom lies in knowing which 
is which at the appropriate moment. 

4. All these systems of influence or non-influence may 
be listed under the general problem of the world's causal 
unity. If the minor causal influences among things 
should converge towards one common causal origin of 
them in the past, one great first cause for all that is, one 
might then speak of the absolute causal unity of the 
world. God's -fiat on creation's day has figured in tradi- 
tional philosophy as such an absolute cause and ori- 
gin. Transcendental Idealism, translating 'creation' into 
'thinking' (or 'willing to think') calls the divine act 
'eternal' rather than 'first'; but the union of the many 
here is absolute, just the same the many would not be, 
save for the One. Against this notion of the unity of 
origin of all things there has always stood the pluralistic 


notion of an eternal self-existing many in the shape of 
atoms or even of spiritual units of some sort. The alter- 
native has doubtless a pragmatic meaning, but perhaps, 
as far as these lectures go, we had better leave the 
question of unity of origin unsettled. 

5. The most important sort of union that obtains 
among things, pragmatically speaking, is their generic 
unity. Things exist in kinds, there are many specimens 
in each kind, and what the land* implies for one speci- 
men, it implies also for every other specimen of that 
land. We can easily conceive that every fact in the world 
might be singular, that is, unlike any other fact and sole 
of its kind. In such a world of singulars our logic would 
be useless, for logic works by predicating of the single 
instance what is true of all its kind. With no two things 
alike in the world, we should be unable to reason from 
our past experiences to our future ones. The existence of 
so much generic unity in things is thus perhaps the most 
momentous pragmatic specification of what it may mean 
to say 'the world is One/ Absolute generic unity would 
obtain if there were one summum genus under which all 
things without exception could be eventually subsumed. 
'Beings,* 'drinkables/ 'experiences,* would be candidates 
for this position. Whether the alternatives expressed by 
such words have any pragmatic significance or not, is 
another question which I prefer to leave unsettled just 

6. Another specification of what the phrase 'the world 
is one* may mean is unity of purpose. An enormous 
number of things in the world subserve a common pur- 
pose. All the man-made systems, administrative, indus- 
trial, military, or what not, exist each for its controlling 
purpose. Every living being pursues its own peculiar 
purposes. They co-operate, according to the degree of 
their development, in collective or tribal purposes, 
larger ends thus enveloping lesser ones, until an abso- 

The One and the Many 97 

lutely single, final and climacteric purpose subserved by 
all things without exception might conceivably be 
reached. It is needless to say that the appearances conflict 
with such a view. Any resultant, as I said in my third 
lecture, may have been purposed in advance, but none of 
the results we actually know in this world have in point 
of fact been purposed in advance in all their details. 
Men and nations start with a vague notion of being 
rich, or great, or good. Each step they make brings 
unforeseen chances into sight, and shuts out older vistas, 
and the specifications of the general purpose have to be 
daily changed. What is reached in the end may be better 
or worse than what was proposed, but it is always more 
complex and different 

Our different purposes also are at war with each other. 
Where one can't crush the other out, they compromise; 
and the result is again different from what any one 
distinctly proposed beforehand. Vaguely and generally, 
much of what was purposed may be gained; but every- 
thing makes strongly for the view that our world is 
incompletely unified teleologically and is still trying to 
get its unification better organized. 

Whoever claims absolute teleological unity, saying that 
there is one purpose that every detail of the universe 
subserves, dogmatizes at his own risk. Theologians who 
dogmatize thus find it more and more impossible, as our 
acquaintance with the waning interests of the world's 
parts grows more concrete, to imagine what the one 
climacteric purpose may possibly be like. We see indeed 
that certain evils minister to ulterior goods, that the 
bitter makes the cocktail better, and that a bit of danger 
or hardship puts us agreeably to our trumps. We can 
vaguely generalize this into the doctrine that all the 
evil in the universe is but instrumental to its greater 
perfection. But the scale of the evil actually in sight 
defies all human tolerance; and transcendental idealism, 


in the pages of a Bradley or a Royce, brings us no 
farther than the book of Job did God's ways are not 
our ways, so let us put our hands upon our mouth. A 
God who can relish such superfluities of horror is no 
God for human beings to appeal to. His animal spirits 
are too high. In other words the 'Absolute* with his one 
purpose, is not the man-like God of common people. 

7. Aesthetic union among things also obtains, and is 
very analogous to teleological union. Things tell a story. 
Their parts hang together so as to work out a climax. 
They play into each other's hands expressively. Retro- 
spectively, we can see that altho no definite purpose 
presided over a chain of events, yet the events fell into 
a dramatic form, with a start, a middle, and a finish. In 
point of fact all stories end; and here again the point of 
view of a many is the more natural one to take. The 
world is full of partial stories that run parallel to one 
another, beginning and ending at odd times. They mutu- 
ally interlace and interfere at points, but we can not 
unify them completely in our minds. In following your 
life-history, I must temporarily turn my attention from 
my own. Even a biographer of twins would have to 
press them alternately upon his reader's attention. 

It follows that whoever says that the whole world tells 
one story utters another of those monistic dogmas that a 
man believes at his risk. It is easy to see the world's 
history pluralistically, as a rope of which each fibre tells 
a separate tale; but to conceive of each cross-section of 
the rope as an absolutely single fact, and to sum the 
whole longitudinal series into one being living an un- 
divided life, is harder. We have indeed the analogy of 
embryology to help us. The microscopist makes a hun- 
dred flat cross-sections of a given embryo, and mentally 
unites them into one solid whole. But the great world's 
ingredients, so far as they are beings, seem, like the 
rope's fibres, to be discontinuous, cross-wise, and to co* 

The One and the Many 99 

here only in the longitudinal direction. Followed in that 
direction they are many. Even the embryologist, when 
he follows the development of his object, has to treat the 
history of each single organ in turn. Absolute aesthetic 
union is thus another barely abstract ideal. The world 
appears as something more epic than dramatic. 

So far, then, we see how the world is unified by its 
many systems, kinds, purposes, and dramas. That there 
is more union in all these ways than openly appears is 
certainly true. That there may be one sovereign purpose, 
system, kind, and story, is a legitimate hypothesis. All I 
say here is that it is rash to affirm this dogmatically 
without better evidence than we possess at present 

8. The great monistic denkmittel for a hundred years 
past has been the notion of the one Knower. The many 
exist only as objects for his thought exist in his dream, 
as it were; and as he knows them, they have one pur- 
pose, form one system, tell one tale for him. This notion 
of an all enveloping noetic unity in things is the sublim- 
est achievement of intellectualist philosophy. Those 
who believe in the Absolute, as the all-knower is termed, 
usually say that they do so for coercive reasons, which 
clear thinkers can not evade. The Absolute has far-reach- 
ing practical consequences, to some of which I drew 
attention in my second lecture. Many kinds of difference 
important to us would surely follow from its being true. 
I can not here enter into all the logical proofs of such a 
Being's existence, farther than to say that none of them 
seem to me sound. I must therefore treat the notion of 
an All-Knower simply as an hypothesis, exactly on a par 
logically with tihe pluralist notion that there is no point 
of view, no focus of information extant, from which the 
entire content of the universe is visible at once. "God's 
conscience," says Professor Royce, 2 **forms in its whole- 
ness one luminously transparent conscious moment" 
this is the type of noetic unity on which rationalism 


insists. Empiricism on the other hand is satisfied with the 
type of noetic unity that is humanly familiar. Everything 
gets known by some knower along with something else; 
but the knowers may in the end be irreducibly many, 
and the greatest knower of them all may yet not know 
the whole of everything, or even know what he does 
know at one single stroke: he may be liable to forget. 
Whichever type obtained, the world would still be a 
universe noetically. Its parts would be conjoined by 
knowledge, but in the one case the knowledge would be 
absolutely unified, in the other it would be strung along 
and overlapped. 

The notion of one instantaneous or eternal Knower 
either adjective here means the same thing is, as I 
said, the great intellectualist achievement of our time. 
It has practically driven out that conception of 'Sub- 
stance* which earlier philosophers set such store by, and 
by which so much unifying work used to be done 
universal substance which alone has being in and from 
itself, and of which all the particulars of experience are 
but forms to which it gives support. Substance has suc- 
cumbed to the pragmatic criticisms of the English school. 
It appears now only as another name for the fact that 
phenomena as they come are actually grouped and given 
in coherent forms, the very forms in which we finite 
knowers experience or think them together. These forms 
of conjunction are as much parts of the tissue of experi- 
ence as are the terms which they connect; and it is a 
great pragmatic achievement for recent idealism to have 
made the world hang together in these directly represent- 
able ways instead of drawing its unity from the 'inher- 
ence* of its parts whatever that may mean in an 
unimaginable principle behind the scenes. 

The world is One/ therefore, just so far as we experi- 
ence it to be concatenated, One by as many definite 
conjunctions as appear. But then also not One by just as 

The One and the Many 101 

many definite das-junctions as we find. The oneness and 
the manyness of it thus obtain in respects which can be 
separately named. It is neither a universe pure and 
simple nor a multiverse pure and simple. And its various 
manners of being One suggest, for their accurate ascer- 
tainment, so many distinct programs of scientific work. 
Thus the pragmatic question 'What is the oneness 
known as? What practical difference will it make?* saves 
us from all feverish excitement over it as a principle of 
sublimity and carries us forward into the stream of 
experience with a cool head. The stream may indeed 
reveal far more connexion and union than we now 
suspect, but we are not entitled on pragmatic principles 
to claim absolute oneness in any respect in advance. 

It is so difficult to see definitely what absolute oneness 
can mean, that probably the majority of you are satisfied 
with the sober attitude which we have reached. Never- 
theless there are possibly some radically monistic souls 
among you who are not content to leave the one and the 
many on a par. Union of various grades, union of di- 
verse types, union that stops at non-conductors, union 
that merely goes from next to next, and means in many 
cases outer nextness only, and not a more internal bond, 
union of concatenation, in short; all that sort of thing 
seems to you a halfway stage of thought. The oneness of 
things, superior to their manyness, you think must also 
be more deeply true, must be the more real aspect of the 
world. The pragmatic view, you are sure, gives us a 
universe imperfectly rational. The real universe must 
form an unconditional unit of being, something consol- 
idated, with its parts co-implicated through and through. 
Only then could we consider our estate completely ra- 

There is no doubt whatever that this ultramonistic 
way of thinking means a great deal to many minds. 
"One Life, One Truth, one Love, one Principle, One 


Good, One God" I quote from a Christian Science 
leaflet which the day's mail brings into my hands 
beyond doubt such a confession of faith has pragmati- 
cally an emotional value, and beyond doubt the word 
'one* contributes to the value quite as much as the 
other words. But if we try to realize intellectually what 
we can possibly mean by such a glut of oneness we are 
thrown right back upon our pragmatistic determinations 
again. It means either the mere name One, the universe 
of discourse; or it means the sum total of all the ascer- 
tainable particular conjunctions and concatenations; or, 
finally, it means some one vehicle of conjunction treated 
as all-inclusive, like one origin, one purpose, or one 
knower. In point of fact it always means one knower to 
those who take it intellectually to-day. The one knower 
involves, they think, the other forms of conjunction. His 
world must have all its parts co-implicated in the one 
logical-aesthetical-teleological unit-picture which is his 
eternal dream. 

The character of the absolute knower's picture is how- 
ever so impossible for us to represent clearly, that we 
may fairly suppose that the authority which absolute 
monism undoubtedly possesses, and probably always will 
possess over some persons, draws its strength far less from 
intellectual than from mystical grounds. To interpret 
absolute monism worthily, be a mystic. Mystical states of 
mind in every degree are shown by history, usually tho 
not always, to make for the monistic view. This is no 
proper occasion to enter upon the general subject of 
mysticism, but I will quote one mystical pronouncement 
to show just what I mean. The paragon of all monistic 
systems is the Veddnta philosophy of Hindostan, and the 
paragon of Vedintist missionaries was the late Swami 
Vivekananda who visited our land some years ago. The 
method of Veddntism is the mystical method. You do 
not reason, but after going through a certain discipline 

The One and the Many 103 

you see, and having seen, you can report the truth. 
Vivekananda thus reports the truth in one of his lec- 
tures here: 

"Where is there any more misery for him who sees this 
Oneness in the universe, this Oneness of life, Oneness 
of everything? . . . This separation between man and 
man, man and woman, man and child, nation from na- 
tion, earth from moon, moon from sun, this separation 
between atom and atom is the cause really of all the 
misery, and the Ved&nta says this separation does not 
exist, it is not real. It is merely apparent, on the surface. 
In the heart of things there is unity still. If you go inside 
you find that unity between man and man, women and 
children, races and races, high and low, rich and poor, 
the gods and men: all are One, and animals too, if you 
go deep enough, and he who has attained to that has no 
more delusion. . . . Where is there any more delusion 
for him? What can delude him? He knows the reality of 
everything, the secret of everything. Where is there any 
more misery for "him? What does he desire? He has 
traced the reality of everything unto the Lord, that 
centre, that Unity of everything, and that is Eternal 
Bliss, Eternal Knowledge, Eternal Existence. Neither 
death nor disease nor sorrow nor misery nor discontent 
is There ... In the Centre, the reality, there is no one 
to be mourned for, no one to be sorry for. He has 
penetrated everything, the Pure One, the Formless, the 
Bodiless, the Stainless, He the Knower, He the great 
Poet, the Self -Existent, He who is giving to every one 
what he deserves." 

Observe how radical the character of the monism here 
is. Separation is not simply overcome by the One, it is 
denied to exist There is no many. We are not parts of 
the One; It has no parts; and since in a sense we undeni- 
ablv are, it must be that each of us is the One, indivisibly 
and totally. An Absolute One, and I that One, surely 


we have here a religion which, emotionally considered, 
has a high pragmatic value; it imparts a perfect sumptu- 
osity of security. As our Swami says in another place: 

"When man has seen himself as One with the infinite 
Being of the universe, when all separateness has ceased, 
when all men, all women, all angels, all gods, all animals, 
all plants, the whole universe has been melted into that 
oneness, then all fear disappears. Whom to fear? Can I 
hurt myself? Can I kill myself? Can I injure myself? Do 
you fear yourself? Then will all sorrow disappear. What 
can cause me sorrow? I am the One Existence of the 
universe. Then all jealousies will disappear; of whom to 
be jealous? Of myself? Then all bad feelings disappear. 
Against whom shall I have this bad feeling? Against 
myself? There is none in the universe but me . . . kill 
out this differentiation, kill out this superstition that 
there are many. 'He who, in this world of many, sees 
that One; he who, in this mass of insentiency, sees that 
One Sentient Being; he who in this world of shadow, 
catches that Reality, unto him belongs eternal peace, 
unto none else, unto none else/** 

We all have some ear for this monistic music: it ele- 
vates and reassures. We all have at least the germ of 
mysticism in us. And when our idealists recite their 
arguments for the Absolute, saying that the slightest 
union admitted anywhere carries logically absolute One- 
ness with it, and that the slightest separation admitted 
anywhere logically carries disunion remediless and com- 
plete, I cannot help suspecting that the palpable weak 
places in the intellectual reasonings they use are pro- 
tected from their own criticism by a mystical feeling 
that, logic or no logic, absolute Oneness must somehow 
at any cost be true. Oneness overcomes moral separate- 
ness at any rate. In the passion of love we have the 
mystic germ of what might mean a total union of all 
sentient life. This mystical germ wakes up in us on 

The One and the Many 105 

hearing the monistic utterances, acknowledges their 
authority, and assigns to intellectual considerations a 
secondary place. 

I will dwell no longer on these religious and moral 
aspects of the question in this lecture. When I come to 
my final lecture there will be something more to say. 

Leave then out of consideration for the moment the 
authority which mystical insights may be conjectured 
eventually to possess; treat the problem of the One and 
the Many in a purely intellectual way; and we see clearly 
enough where pragmatism stands. With her criterion of 
the practical differences that theories make, we see that 
she must equally abjure absolute monism and absolute 
pluralism. TTie world is One just so far as its parts hang 
together by any definite connexion. It is many just so 
far as any definite connexion fails to obtain. And finally 
it is growing more and more unified by those systems of 
connexion at least which human energy keeps framing 
as time goes on. 

It is possible to imagine alternative universes to the 
one we know, in which the most various grades and types 
of union should be embodied. Thus the lowest grade of 
universe would be a world of mere withness, of which 
the parts were only strung together by the conjunction 
'and/ Such a universe is even now the collection of our 
several inner lives. The spaces and times of your imagi- 
nation, the objects and events of your day-dreams are not 
only more or less incoherent inter se, but are wholly out 
of definite relation with the similar contents of any one 
else's mind. Our various reveries now as we sit here 
compenetrate each other idly without influencing or 
interfering. They coexist, but in no order and in no 
receptacle, being the nearest approach to an absolute 
'many* that we can conceive. We can not even imagine 
any reason why they should be known all together, and 
we can imagine even less, if they were known together, 


how they could be known as one systematic whole. 

But add our sensations and bodily actions, and the 
union mounts to a much higher grade. Our audita et 
visa and our acts fall into those receptacles of time and 
space in which each event finds its date and place. They 
form 'things' and are of lands* too, and can be classed. 
Yet we can imagine a world of things and of kinds in 
which the causal interactions with which we are so famil- 
iar should not exist. Everything there might be inert 
towards everything else, and refuse to propagate its 
influence. Or gross mechanical influences might pass, 
but no chemical action. Such worlds would be far less 
unified than ours. Again there might be complete phys- 
ico-chemical interaction, but no minds; or minds, but 
altogether private ones, with no social life; or social life 
limited to acquaintance, but no love; or love, but no 
customs or institutions that should systematize it. No one 
of these grades of universe would be absolutely irrational 
or disintegrated, inferior tho it might appear when 
looked at from the higher grades. For instance, if our 
minds should ever become 'telepathically* connected, so 
that we knew immediately, or could under certain condi- 
tions know immediately, each what the other was think- 
ing, the world we now live in would appear to the 
thinkers in that world to have been of an inferior grade. 

With the whole of past eternity open for our con- 
jectures to range in, it may be lawful to wonder whether 
the various kinds of union now realized in the universe 
that we inhabit may not possibly have been successively 
evolved after the fashion in which we now see human 
systems evolving in consequence of human needs. If 
such an hypothesis were legitimate, total oneness would 
appear at the end of things rather than at their origin. 
In other words the notion of the 'Absolute' would have 
to be replaced by that of the Ultimate.* The two notions 
would have the same content the maximally unified 

The One and the Many 107 

content of fact, namely but their time-relations would 
be positively reversed. 3 

After discussing the unity of the universe in this 
pragmatic way, you ought to see why I said in my second 
lecture, borrowing the word from my friend G. Papini, 
that pragmatism tends to unstiffen all our theories. The 
world's oneness has generally been affirmed abstractly 
only, and as if any one who questioned it must be an 
idiot. The temper of monists has been so vehement, as 
almost at times to be convulsive; and this way of holding 
a doctrine does not easily go with reasonable discussion 
and the drawing of distinctions. The theory of the Ab- 
solute, in particular, has had to be an article of faith, 
affirmed dogmatically and exclusively. The One and All, 
first in the order of being and of knowing, logically 
necessary itself, and uniting all lesser things in the bonds 
of mutual necessity, how could it allow of any mitiga- 
tion of its inner rigidity? The slightest suspicion of 
pluralism, the minutest wiggle of independence of any 
one of its parts from the control of the totality would 
ruin it. Absolute unity brooks no degrees, as well might 
you claim absolute purity for a glass of water because it 
contains but a single little cholera-germ. The independ- 
ence, however infinitesimal, of a part, however small, 
would be to the Absolute as fatal as a cholera-germ. 

Pluralism on the other hand has no need of this 
dogmatic rigoristic temper. Provided you grant some 
separation among things, some tremor of independence, 
some free play of parts on one another, some real novelty 
or chance, however minute, she is amply satisfied, and 
will allow you any amount, however great, of real union. 
How much of union there may be is a question that she 
thinks can only be decided empirically. The amount may 
be enormous, colossal; but absolute monism is shattered 
if, along with all the union, there has to be granted the 
slightest modicum, the most incipient nascency, or the 


most residual trace, of a separation that is not 'over- 

Pragmatism, pending the final empirical ascertain- 
ment of just what the balance of union and disunion 
among things may be, must obviously range herself upon 
the pluralistic side. Some day, she admits, even total 
union, with one knower, one origin, and a universe 
consolidated in every conceivable way, may turn out to 
be the most acceptable of all hypotheses. Meanwhile the 
opposite hypothesis, of a world imperfectly unified still, 
and perhaps always to remain so, must be sincerely 
entertained. This latter hypothesis is pluralism's doc- 
trine. Since absolute monism forbids its being even 
considered seriously, branding it as irrational from the 
start, it is clear that pragmatism must turn its back on 
absolute monism, and follow pluralism's more empirical 

This leaves us with the common-sense world, in which 
we find things partly joined and partly disjoined. 
Tilings,* then, and their 'conjunctions* what do such 
words mean, pragmatically handled? In my next lecture, 
I will apply the pragmatic method to the stage of phi- 
losophizing known as Common Sense. 

FIVE: Pragmatism and Common Sense 



In the last lecture we turned ourselves from the usual 
way of talking of the universe's oneness as a principle, 
sublime in all its blaukness, towards a study of the spe- 
cial lands of union which the universe enfolds. We found 
many of these to coexist with kinds of separation equally 
real. 'How far am I verified?* is the question which each 
land of union and each kind of separation asks us here, so 
as good pragmatists we have to turn our face towards 
experience, towards 'facts.' 

Absolute oneness remains, but only as an hypothesis, 
and that hypothesis is reduced nowadays to that of an 
omniscient knower who sees all things without exception 
as forming one single systematic fact. But the knower in- 
question may still be conceived either as an Absolute or 
as an Ultimate; and over against the hypothesis of him 
in either form the counter-hypothesis that the widest 
field of knowledge that ever was or will be still contains 
some ignorance, may be legitimately held. Some bits of 
information always may escape. 

This is the hypothesis of noetic pluralism, which mon- 
ists consider so absurd. Since we are bound to treat it as 



respectfully as noetic monism, until the facts shall have 
tipped the beam, we find that our pragmatism, tho orig- 
inally nothing but a method, has forced us to be friendly 
to the pluralistic view. It may be that some parts of the 
world are connected so loosely with some other parts as 
to be strung along by nothing but the copula and. They 
might even come and go without those other parts suf- 
fering any internal change. This pluralistic view, of a 
world of additive constitution, is one that pragmatism is 
unable to rule out from serious consideration. But this 
view leads one to the farther hypothesis that the actual 
world, instead of being complete 'eternally/ as the mon- 
ists assure us, may be eternally incomplete, and at all 
times subject to addition or liable to loss. 

It is at any rate incomplete in one respect, and fla- 
grantly so. The very fact that we debate this question 
shows that our knowledge is incomplete at present and 
subject to addition. In respect of the knowledge it con- 
tains the world does genuinely change and grow. Some 
general remarks on the way in which our knowledge 
completes itself when it does complete itself will lead 
us very conveniently into our subject for this lecture, 
which is 'Common Sense/ 

To begin with, our knowledge grows in spots. The 
spots may be large or small, but the knowledge never 
grows all over: some old knowledge always remains what 
it was. Your knowledge of pragmatism, let us suppose, is 
growing now. Later, its growth may involve considerable 
modification of opinions which you previously held to 
be true. But such modifications are apt to be gradual. To 
take the nearest possible example, consider these lec- 
tures of mine. What you first gain from them is probably 
a small amount of new information, a few new defini- 
tions, or distinctions, or points of view. But while these 
special ideas are being added, the rest of your knowledge 
stands still, and only gradually will you line up* your pre- 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 113 

vious opinions with the novelties I am trying to instil, 
and modify to some slight degree their mass. 

You listen to me now, I suppose, with certain prepos- 
sessions as to my competency, and these affect your re- 
ception of what I say, but were I suddenly to break off 
lecturing, and to begin to sing 'We won't go home till 
morning* in a rich baritone voice, not only would that 
new fact be added to your stock, but it would oblige you 
to define me differently, and that might alter your opin- 
ion of the pragmatic philosophy, and in general bring 
about a rearrangement of a number of your ideas. Your 
mind in such processes is strained, and sometimes pain- 
fully so, between its older beliefs and the novelties which 
experience brings along. 

Our minds thus grow in spots; and like grease-spots, 
the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as pos- 
sible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, 
as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can. We 
patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks 
in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by 
what absorbs it. Our past apperceives and co-operates; 
and in the new equilibrium in which each step forward 
in the process of learning terminates, it happens rela- 
tively seldom that the new fact is added raw. More usu- 
ally it is embedded cooked, as one might say, or stewed 
down in the sauce of the old. 

New truths thus are resultants of new experiences and 
of old truths combined and mutually modifying one an- 
other. And since this is the case in the changes of opin- 
ion of today, there is no reason to assume that it has not 
been so at all times. It follows that very ancient modes 
of thought may have survived through all the later 
changes in men's opinions. The most primitive ways of 
thinking may not yet be wholly expunged. Like our five 
fingers, our ear-bones, our rudimentary caudal append- 
age, or our other Vestigial* peculiarities, they may re- 


main as indelible tokens of events in our race-history. 
Our ancestors may at certain moments have struck into 
ways of thinking which they might conceivably not have 
found. But once they did so, and after the fact, the in- 
heritance continues. When you begin a piece of music 
in a certain key, you must keep the key to the end. You 
may alter your house ad libitum, but the ground-plan of 
the first architect persists you can make great changes, 
but you can not change a Gothic church into a Doric 
temple. You may rinse and rinse the bottle, but you can't 
get the taste of the medicine or whiskey that first filled 
it wholly out. 

My thesis now is this, that our fundamental ways of 
thinking about things are discoveries of exceedingly re- 
mote ancestors, which have been able to preserve them- 
selves throughout the experience of att subsequent time. 
They form one great stage of equilibrium in the human 
mind's development, the stage of common sense. Other 
stages have grafted themselves upon this stage, but have 
never succeeded in displacing it. Let us consider this 
common-sense stage first, as if it might be final. 

In practical talk, a man's common sense means his 
good judgment, his freedom from eccentricity, his gump- 
tion, to use the vernacular word. In philosophy it means 
something entirely different, it means his use of certain 
intellectual forms or categories of thought. Were we lob- 
sters, or bees, it might be that our organization would 
have led to our using quite different modes from these of 
apprehending our experiences. It might be too (we can 
not dogmatically deny this) that such categories, un- 
imaginable by us to-day, would have proved on the 
whole as serviceable for handling our experiences men- 
tally as those which we actually use. 

If this sounds paradoxical to any one, let him think of 
analytical geometry. The identical figures which Euclid 
defined by intrinsic relations were defined by Descartes 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 115 

by the relations of tiheir points to adventitious co- 
ordinates, the result being an absolutely different and 
vastly more potent way of handling curves. All our con- 
ceptions are what the Germans call Denkmittel, means 
by which we handle facts by thinking them. Experience 
merely as such doesn't come ticketed and labelled, we 
have first to discover what it is. Kant speaks of it as be- 
ing in its first intention a getoiihl der erscheinungen, a 
rhapsodie der wdhrnehmungen, a mere motley which 
we have to unify by our wits. What we usually do is 
first to frame some system of concepts mentally classified, 
serialized, or connected in some intellectual way, and 
then to use this as a tally by which we *keep tab* on the 
impressions that present themselves. When each is re- 
ferred to some possible place in the conceptual system, 
it is thereby 'understood/ This notion of parallel 'mani- 
folds' with their elements standing reciprocally in 'one- 
to-one relations/ is proving so convenient nowadays in 
mathematics and logic as to supersede more and more 
the older classificatory conceptions. There are many con- 
ceptual systems of this sort; and the sense manifold is 
also such a system. Find a one-to-one relation for your 
sense-impressions anywhere among the concepts, and in 
so far forth you rationalize the impressions. But obvi- 
ously you can rationalize them by using various concep- 
tual systems. 

The old common-sense way of rationalizing them is by 
a set of concepts of which the most important are these: 


The same or different; 




One Time; 

One Space; 

Subjects and attributes; 


Causal influences; 

The fancied; 

The real. 

We are now so familiar with the order that these no- 
tions have woven for us out of the everlasting weather 
of our perceptions that we find it hard to realize how 
little of a fixed routine the perceptions follow when 
taken by themselves. The word weather is a good one to 
use here. In Boston, for example, the weather has almost 
no routine, the only law being that if you have had any 
weather for two days, you will probably but not cer- 
tainly have another weather on the third. Weather- 
experience as it thus comes to Boston is discon- 
tinuous, and chaotic. In point of temperature, of wind, 
rain or sunshine, it may change three times a day. But 
the Washington weather-bureau intellectualizes this dis- 
order by making each successive bit of Boston weather 
episodic. It refers it to its place and moment in a con- 
tinental cyclone, on the history of which the local 
changes everywhere are strung as beads are strung upon 
a cord. 

Now it seems almost certain that young children and 
the inferior animals take all their experiences very much 
as uninstructed Bostonians take their weather. They 
know no more of time, or space, as world-receptacles, 
or of permanent subjects and changing predicates, or of 
causes, or lands, or thoughts, or things, than our common 
people know of continental cyclones. A baby's rattle 
drops out of his hand, but the baby looks not for it It 
has 'gone out" for him, as a candle-flame goes out; and it 
comes back, when you replace it in his hand, as the 
flame comes back when relit. The idea of its being a 
'thing/ whose permanent existence by itself he might 
interpolate between its successive apparitions has evi- 
dently not occurred to him. It is the same with dogs. Out 
of sight, out of mind, with them. It is pretty evident that 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 117 

they have no general tendency to interpolate 'things/ 
Let me quote here a passage from my colleague G. San- 
tayana's book. 

"If a dog, while sniffing about contentedly, sees his 
master arriving after a long absence . . . the poor brute 
asks for no reason why his master went, why he has 
come again, why he should be loved, or why presently 
while lying at his feet you forget him and begin to grunt 
and dream of the chase all that is an utter mystery, ut- 
terly unconsidered. Such experience has variety, scenery, 
and a certain vital rhythm; its story might be told in 
dithyrambic verse. It moves wholly by inspiration; ev- 
ery event is providential, every act unpremeditated. 
Absolute freedom and absolute helplessness have met to- 
gether: you depend wholly on divine favor, yet that un- 
fathomable agency is not distinguishable from your own 
life. . . . [But] the figures even of that disordered 
drama have their exits and their entrances; and their cues 
can be gradually discovered by a being capable of fixing 
his attention and retaining the order of events. ... In 
proportion as such understanding advances, each mo- 
ment of experience becomes consequential and prophetic 
of the rest. The calm places in life are filled with power 
and its spasms with resource. No emotion can over- 
whelm the mind, for of none is the basis or issue wholly 
hidden; no event can disconcert it altogether, because it 
sees beyond. Means can be looked for to escape from 
the worst predicament; and whereas each moment had 
been formerly filled with nothing but its own adventures 
and surprised emotion, each now makes room for the les- 
son of what went before and surmises what may be the 
plot of the whole." x 

Even to-day science and philosophy are still labo- 
riously trying to part fancies from realities in our ex- 
perience; and in primitive times they made only the most 
incipient distinctions in this line. Men believed whatever 


they thought with any liveliness, and they mixed their 
dreams with their realities inextricably. The categories 
of 'thought* and 'things' are indispensable here instead 
of being realities we now call certain experiences only 
'thoughts/ There is not a category, among those enumer- 
ated, of which we may not imagine the use to have thus 
originated historically and only gradually spread. 

That one Time which we all believe in and in which 
each event has its definite date, that one Space in which 
each thing has its position, these abstract notions unify 
the world incomparably; but in their finished shape as 
concepts how different they are from the loose un- 
ordered time-and-space experiences of natural men! Ev- 
erything that happens to us brings its own duration and 
extension, and both are vaguely surrounded by a mar- 
ginal 'more* that runs into the duration and extension of 
the next thing that comes. But we soon lose all our defi- 
nite bearings; and not only do our children make no dis- 
tinction between yesterday and the day before yesterday, 
tihe whole past being churned up together, but we adults 
still do so whenever the times are large. It is the same 
with spaces. On a map I can distinctly see the relation 
of London, Constantinople, and Pekin to the place 
where I am; in reality I utterly fail to feel the facts 
which the map symbolizes. The directions and distances 
are vague, confused and mixed. Cosmic space and cosmic 
time, so far from being the intuitions that Kant said they 
were, are constructions as patently artificial as any that 
science can show. The great majority of the human 
race never use these notions, but live in plural times 
and spaces, interpenetrant and durcheinander. 

Permanent 'things* again; the 'same* thing and its vari- 
ous 'appearances' and 'alterations*; the different lands' 
of thing; with the land' used finally as a 'predicate,' of 
which the thing remains the 'subject* what a straighten- 
ing of the tangle of our experience's immediate flux and 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 119 

sensible variety does this list of terms suggest! And it is 
only the smallest part of his experience's flux that any 
one actually does straighten out by applying to it these 
conceptual instruments. Out of them all our lowest an- 
cestors probably used only, and then most vaguely and 
inaccurately, the notion of *the same again/ But even 
then if you had asked them whether the same were a 
'thing* that had endured throughout the unseen interval, 
they would probably have been at a loss, and would 
have said that they had never asked that question, or 
considered matters in that light. 

Kinds, and sameness of kind what colossally useful 
denkmittel for finding our way among the many! The 
manyness might conceivably have been absolute. Expe- 
riences might have all been singulars, no one of them 
occurring twice. In such a world logic would have had 
no application; for kind and sameness of kind are logic's 
only instruments. Once we know that whatever is of a 
kind is also of that kind's kind, we can travel through the 
universe as if with seven-league boots. Brutes surely 
never use these abstractions, and civilized men use them 
in most various amounts. 

Causal influence, again! This, if anything, seems to 
have been an antediluvian conception; for we find prim- 
itive men thinking that almost everything is significant 
and can exert influence of some sort. The search for the 
more definite influences seems to have started in the 
question: <c Who, or what, is to blame?" for any illness, 
namely, or disaster, or untoward tiling. From this cen- 
tre the search for causal influences has spread. Hume 
and 'Science* together have tried to eliminate the whole 
notion of influence, substituting the entirely different 
denkmittel of law/ But law is a comparatively recent in- 
vention, and influence reigns supreme in the older realm 
of common sense. 

The 'possible,' as something less than the actual and 


more than the wholly unreal, is another of these magis- 
terial notions of common sense. Criticise them as you 
may, they persist; and we fly back to them the moment 
critical pressure is relaxed. 'Self/ 'body' in the substantial 
or metaphysical sense no one escapes subjection to 
those forms of thought. In practice, the common-sense 
denkmittel are uniformly victorious. Every one, however 
instructed, still thinks of a 'thing' in the common-sense 
way, as a permanent unit-subject that 'supports' its at- 
tributes interchangeably. No one stably or sincerely uses 
the more critical notion, of a group of sense-qualities 
united by a law. With these categories in our hand, we 
make our plans and plot together, and connect all the re- 
moter parts of experience with what lies before our 
eyes. Our later and more critical philosophies are mere 
fads and fancies compared with this natural mother- 
tongue of thought. 

Common sense appears thus as a perfectly definite 
stage in our understanding of things, a stage that satisfies 
in an extraordinarily successful way the purposes for 
which we think. Things' do exist, even when we do not 
see them. Their lands' also exist Their 'qualities' are 
what they act by, and are what we act on; and these also 
exist These lamps shed their quality of light on every 
object in this room. We intercept it on its way whenever 
we hold up an opaque screen. It is the very sound that 
my lips emit that travels into your ears. It is the sensible 
heat of the fire that migrates into the water in which we 
boil an egg; and we can change the heat into coolness 
by dropping in a lump of ice. At this stage of philosophy 
all non-European men without exception have remained. 
It suffices for all the necessary practical ends of life; and, 
among our race even, it is only the highly sophisticated 
specimens, the minds debauched by learning, as Berkeley 
calls them, who have ever even suspected common sense 
of not being absolutely true. 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 121 

But when we look back, and speculate as to how the 
common-sense categories may have achieved their won- 
derful supremacy, no reason appears why it may not 
have been by a process just like that by which the 
conceptions due to Democritus, Berkeley, or Darwin, 
achieved their similar triumphs in more recent times. 
In other words, they may have been successfully dis- 
covered by prehistoric geniuses whose names the night 
of antiquity has covered up; they may have been veri- 
fied by the immediate facts of experience which they 
first fitted; and then from fact to fact and from man to 
man they may have spread, until all language rested on 
them and we are now incapable of thinking naturally in 
any other terms. Such a view would only follow the rule 
that has proved elsewhere so fertile, of assuming the 
vast and remote to conform to the laws of formation 
that we can observe at work in the small and near. 

For all utilitarian practical purposes these conceptions 
amply suffice; but that they began at special points of 
discovery and only gradually spread from one thing to 
another, seems proved by the exceedingly dubious limits 
of their application to-day. We assume for certain pur- 
poses one 'objective' Time that aequabiliter fluit, but 
we don't livingly believe in or realize any such equally- 
flowing time. 'Space* is a less vague notion; but 'things/ 
what are they? Is a constellation properly a thing? or 
an army? or is an ens rationis such as space or justice a 
thing? Is a knife whose handle and blade are changed 
the 'same'? Is the 'changeling,' whom Locke so seriously 
discusses, of the human Tdnd'? Is 'telepathy' a 'fane/ or 
a 'fact? The moment you pass beyond the practical use 
of these categories (a use usually suggested sufficiently 
by the circumstances of the special case) to a merely 
curious or speculative way of thinking, you find it im- 
possible to say within just what limits of fact any one of 
them shall apply. 


The peripatetic philosophy, obeying rationalist pro- 
pensities, has tried to eternalize the common-sense cate- 
gories by treating them very technically and articulately. 
A 'thing' for instance is a being, or ens. An ens is a sub- 
ject in which qualities 'inhere/ A subject is a substance. 
Substances are of lands, and kinds are definite in num- 
ber, and discrete. These distinctions are fundamental and 
eternal. As terms of discourse they are indeed magnifi- 
cently useful, but what they mean, apart from their use 
in steering our discourse to profitable issues, does not 
appear. If you ask a scholastic philosopher what a sub- 
stance may be in itself, apart from its being the support 
of attributes, he simply says that your intellect knows 
perfectly what the word means. 

But what the intellect knows clearly is only the word 
itself and its steering function. So it comes about that 
intellects $ibi permissi, intellects only curious and idle, 
have forsaken the common-sense level for what in gen- 
eral terms may be called the 'critical' level of thought. 
Not merely such intellects either your Humes and 
Berkeleys and Hegels; but practical observers of facts, 
your Galileos, Daltons, Faradays, have found it impossi- 
ble to treat the naifs sense-termini of common sense as 
ultimately real. As common sense interpolates her con- 
stant 'things* between our intermittent sensations, so sci- 
ence extrapolates her world of 'primary' qualities, her at- 
oms, her ether, her magnetic fields, and tie like, beyond 
the common-sense world. The 'things' are now invisible 
impalpable things; and the old visible common-sense 
things are supposed to result from the mixture of these 
invisibles. Or else the whole naif conception of thing 
gets superseded, and a thing's name is interpreted as de- 
noting only the law or regel der verbindung by which 
certain of our sensations habitually succeed or coexist. 
Science and critical philosophy thus burst the bounds 
of common sense. With science naif realism ceases: 'Sec- 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 123 

ondary' qualities become unreal; primary ones alone re- 
main. With critical philosophy, havoc is made of every- 
thing. The common-sense categories one and all cease to 
represent anything in the way of being; they are but 
sublime tricks of human thought, our ways of escaping 
bewilderment in tibe midst of sensation's irremediable 

But the scientific tendency in critical thought, tho in- 
spired at first by purely intellectual motives, has opened 
an entirely unexpected range of practical utilities to our 
astonished view. Galileo gave us accurate clocks and ac- 
curate artillery-practice; the chemists flood us with new 
medicines and dye-stuffs; Ampere and Faraday have en- 
dowed us with the New York subway and with Marconi 
telegrams. The hypothetical things that such men have 
invented, defined as they have defined them, are show- 
ing an extraordinary fertility in consequences verifiable 
by sense. Our logic can deduce from them a consequence 
due under certain conditions, we can then bring about 
the conditions, and presto, the consequence is there be- 
fore our eyes. The scope of the practical control of na- 
ture newly put into our hand by scientific ways of think- 
ing vastly exceeds the scope of the old control grounded 
on common sense. Its rate of increase accelerates so that 
no one can trace the limit; one may even fear that the 
being of man may be crushed by his own powers, that 
his fixed nature as an organism may not prove adequate 
to stand the strain of the ever increasingly tremendous 
functions, almost divine creative functions, which his in- 
tellect will more and more enable him to wield. He may 
drown in his wealth like a child in a bath-tub, who has 
turned on the water and who can not turn it off. 

The philosophic stage of criticism, much more thor- 
ough in its negations than the scientific stage, so far gives 
us no new range of practical power. Locke, Hume, Berke- 
ley, Kant, Hegel, have all been utterly sterile, so far as 


shedding any light on the details of nature goes, and I 
can think of no invention or discovery that can be di- 
rectly traced to anything in their peculiar thought, for 
neither with Berkeley's tar-water nor with Kant's nel> 
ular hypothesis had their respective philosophic tenets 
anything to do. The satisfactions they yield to their dis- 
ciples are intellectual, not practical; and even then 
we have to confess that there is a large minus-side to the 

There are thus at least three well-characterized levels, 
stages or types of thought about the world we live in, 
and the notions of one stage have one kind of merit, 
those of another stage another kind. It is impossible, 
however, to say that any stage as yet in sight is abso- 
lutely more true than any other. Common sense is the 
more consolidated stage, because it got its innings first, 
and made all language into its ally. Whether it or sci- 
ence be the more august stage may be left to private 
judgment. But neither consolidation nor augustness are 
decisive marks of truth. If common sense were true, why 
should science have had to brand the secondary qualities, 
to which our world owes all its living interest, as false, 
and to invent an invisible world of points and curves, 
and mathematical equations instead? Why should it have 
needed to transform causes and activities into laws of 
'functional variation? Vainly did scholasticism, common 
sense's college-trained younger sister, seek to stereotype 
the forms the human family had always talked with, to 
make them definite and fix them for eternity. Substan- 
tial forms (in other words our secondary qualities) hardly 
outlasted the year of our Lord 1600. People were already 
tired of them then; and Galileo, and Descartes, with his 
'new philosophy/ gave them only a little later their coup 
de grdce. 

But now if the new kinds of scientific 'thing,* the cor- 
puscular and etheric world, were essentially more 'true/ 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 125 

why should they have excited so much criticism within 
the body of science itself? Scientific logicians are saying 
on every hand that these entities and their determina- 
tions, however definitely conceived, should not be held 
for literally real. It is as if they existed; but in reality 
they are like co-ordinates or logarithms, only artificial 
short-cuts for taking us from one part to another of ex- 
perience's flux. We can cipher fruitfully with them; they 
serve us wonderfully; but we must not be their dupes. 
There is no ringing conclusion possible when we com- 
pare these types of thinking, with a view to telling 
which is the more absolutely true. Their naturalness, 
their intellectual economy, their fruitfulness for practice, 
all start up as distinct tests of their veracity, and as a re- 
sult we get confused. Common sense is better for one 
sphere of life, science for another, philosophic criticism 
for a third; but whether either be truer absolutely, 
Heaven only knows. Just now, if I understand the mat- 
ter rightly, we are witnessing a curious reversion to the 
common sense way of looking at physical nature, in the 
philosophy of science favored by such men as Mach, Ost- 
wald and Duhem. According to these teachers no hypoth- 
esis is truer than any other in the sense of being a more 
literal copy of reality. They are all but ways of talking 
on our part, to be compared solely from the point of 
view of their use. The only literally true thing is reality; 
and the only reality we know is, for these logicians, sen- 
sible reality, the flux of our sensations and emotions as 
they pass. TSnergy* is the collective name (according to 
Ostwald) for the sensations just as they present them- 
selves (the movement, heat, magnetic pull, or light, or 
whatever it may be) when they are measured in certain 
ways. So measuring them, we are enabled to describe 
the correlated changes which they show us, in formulas 
matchless for their simplicity and fruitfulness for human 
use. They are sovereign triumphs of economy in thought 


No one can fail to admire the 'energetic' philosophy. 
But the hypersensible entities, the corpuscles and vi- 
brations, hold their own with most physicists and chem- 
ists, in spite of its appeal. It seems too economical to be 
all-sufficient Profusion, not economy, may after all be 
reality's key-note. 

I am dealing here with highly technical matters, 
hardly suitable for popular lecturing, and in which my 
own competence is small. All the better for my conclu- 
sion, however, which at this point is this. The whole no- 
tion of truth, which naturally and without reflexion we 
assume to mean the simple duplication by the mind of a 
ready-made and given reality, proves hard to understand 
clearly. There is no simple test available for adjudicating 
off-hand between the divers types of thought that claim 
to possess it. Common sense, common science or cor- 
puscular philosophy, ultra-critical science, or energetics, 
and critical or idealistic philosophy, all seem insuffi- 
ciently true in some regard and leave some dissatisfac- 
tion. It is evident that the conflict of these so widely 
differing systems obliges us to overhaul the very idea of 
truth, for at present we have no definite notion of what 
the word may mean. I shall face that task in my next 
lecture, and will add but a few words, in finishing the 
present one. 

There are only two points that I wish you to retain 
from the present lecture. The first one relates to com- 
mon sense. We have seen reason to suspect it, to suspect 
that in spite of their being so venerable, of their being 
so universally used and built into the very structure of lan- 
guage, its categories may after all be only a collection of 
extraordinarily successful hypotheses (historically discov- 
ered or invented by single men, but gradually communi- 
cated, and used by everybody) by which our forefathers 
have from time immemorial unified and straightened 
the discontinuity of their immediate experiences, and 

Pragmatism and Common Sense 127 

put themselves into an equilibrium with the surface 
of nature so satisfactory for ordinary practical purposes 
that it certainly would have lasted forever, but for the 
excessive intellectual vivacity of Democritus, Archi- 
medes, Galileo, Berkeley, and of other eccentric geniuses 
whom the example of such men inflamed. Retain, I pray 
you, this suspicion about common sense. 

The other point is this. Ought not the existence of the 
various types of thinking which we have reviewed, each 
so splendid for certain purposes, yet all conflicting still, 
and neither one of them able to support a claim of ab- 
solute veracity, to awaken a presumption favorable to 
the pragmatistic view that all our theories are instru- 
mental, are mental modes of adaption to reality, rather 
than revelations or gnostic answers to some divinely 
instituted world-enigma? I expressed this view as clearly 
as I could in the second of these lectures. Certainly the 
restlessness of the actual theoretic situation, the value 
for some purposes of each thought-level, and the inabil- 
ity of either to expel the others decisively, suggest this 
pragmatistic view, which I hope that the next lectures 
may soon make entirely convincing. May there not after 
all be a possible ambiguity in truth? 

: Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 



When Clerk-Maxwell was a child it is written that he 
had a mania for having everything explained to him, and 
that when people put him off with vague verbal ac- 
counts of any phenomenon he would interrupt them im- 
patiently by saying, *Yes; but I want you to tell me the 
particular go of it!* Had his question been about truth, 
only a pragmatist could have told him the particular go 
of it I believe that our contemporary pragmatists, es- 
pecially Messrs. Schiller and Dewey, have given the 
only tenable account of this subject. It is a very ticklish 
subject, sending subtle rootlets into all kinds of crannies, 
and hard to treat in the sketchy way that alone befits a 
public lecture. But the Schiller-Dewey view of truth has 
been so ferociously attacked by rationalistic philoso- 
phers, and so abominably misunderstood, that here, if 
anywhere, is the point where a clear and simple state- 
ment should be made. 

I fully expect to see the pragmatist view of truth run 
through the classic stages of a theory's career. First, you 
know, a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is ad- 
mitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally 
it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim 


that they themselves discovered it. Our doctrine of truth 
is at present in the first of these three stages, with 
symptoms of the second stage having begun in certain 
quarters. I wish that this lecture might help it beyond 
the first stage in the eyes of many of you. 

Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of 
certain of our ideas. It means their 'agreement/ as falsity 
means their disagreement, with 'reality.' Pragmatists and 
intellectualists both accept this definition as a matter of 
course. They begin to quarrel only after the question is 
raised as to what may precisely be meant by the term 
'agreement/ and what by the term 'reality/ when reality 
is taken as something for our ideas to agree with. 

In answering these questions the pragmatists are more 
analytic and painstaking, the intellectualists more off- 
hand and irreflective. The popular notion is that a true 
idea must copy its reality. Like other popular views, 
this one follows the analogy of the most usual experi- 
ence. Our true ideas of sensible things do indeed copy 
them. Shut your eyes and think of yonder clock on tibe 
wall, and you get just such a true picture or copy of its 
dial. But your idea of its 'works' (unless you are a clock- 
maker) is much less of a copy, yet it passes muster, for 
it in no way clashes with the reality. Even though it 
should shrink to the mere word 'works/ that word still 
serves you truly; and when you speak of the 'time- 
keeping function* of the clock, or of its spring's 'elastic- 
ity/ it is hard to see exactly what your ideas can copy. 

You perceive that there is a problem here. Where our 
ideas cannot copy definitely their object, what does 
agreement with that object mean? Some idealists seem 
to say that they are true whenever they are what God 
means that we ought to think about that object. Others 
hold the copy-view all through, and speak as if our ideas 
possessed truth just in proportion as they approach to 
being copies of the Absolute's eternal way of thinking. 

Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 133 

These views, you see, invite pragmatistic discussion. 
But the great assumption of the intellectualists is that 
truth means essentially an inert static relation. When 
you've got your true idea of anything, there's an end of 
the matter. You're in possession; you know; you have 
fulfilled your thinking destiny. You are where you ought 
to be mentally; you have obeyed your categorical im- 
perative; and nothing more need follow on that climax 
of your rational destiny. Epistemologically you are in 
stable equilibrium. 

Pragmatism, on the other hand, asks its usual question. 
"Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what con- 
crete difference will its being true make in any one's 
actual life? How will the truth be realized? What ex- 
periences will be different from those which would ob- 
tain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's 
cash-value in experiential terms?" 

The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the 
answer: True ideas are those that we can assimilate, 
validate, corroborate and verify. False ideas are those 
that we can not. That is the practical difference it makes 
to us to have true ideas; that, therefore, is the meaning 
of truth, for it is all that truth is known-as. 

This thesis is what I have to defend. The truth of an 
idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth 
happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by 
events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process: the proc- 
ess namely of its verifying itself, its v&d-fication. Its va- 
lidity is the process of its valid-o*ion. 

But what do the words verification and validation 
themselves pragmatically mean? They again signify cer- 
tain practical consequences of the verified and validated 
idea. It is hard to find any one phrase that characterizes 
these consequences better than the ordinary agreement- 
formula just such consequences being what we have in 
mind whenever we say that our ideas *agree' with real- 


ity. They lead us, namely, through the acts and other 
ideas which they instigate, into or up to, or towards, 
other parts of experience with which we feel all the 
while such feeling being among our potentialities 
that the original ideas remain in agreement. The con- 
nexions and transitions come to us from point to point 
as being progressive, harmonious, satisfactory. This func- 
tion of agreeable leading is what we mean by an idea's 
verification. Such an account is vague and it sounds at 
first quite trivial, but it has results which it will take the 
rest of my hour to explain. 

Let me begin by reminding you of the fact that the 
possession of true thoughts means everywhere the pos- 
session of invaluable instruments of action; and that our 
duty to gain truth, so far from being a blank command 
from out of the blue, or a 'stunt' self-imposed by our 
intellect, can account for itself by excellent practical rea- 

The importance to human life of having true beliefs 
about matters of fact is a thing too notorious. We live 
in a world of realities that can be infinitely useful or in- 
finitely harmful. Ideas that tell us which of them to ex- 
pect count as the true ideas in all this primary sphere of 
verification, and the pursuit of such ideas is a primary 
human duty. The possession of truth, so far from being 
here an end in itself, is only a preliminary means towards 
other vital satisfactions. If I am lost in the woods and 
starved, and find what looks like a cow-path, it is of the 
utmost importance that I should think of a human habi- 
tation at the end of it, for if I do so and follow it, I save 
myself. The true thought is useful here because the 
house which is its object is useful. The practical value 
of true ideas is thus primarily derived from the practical 
importance of their objects to us. Their objects are, in- 

Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 135 

deed, not important at all times. I may on another oc- 
casion have no use for the house; and then my idea 
of it, however verifiable, will be practically irrelevant, 
and had better remain latent. Yet since almost any ob- 
ject may some day become temporarily important, the 
advantage of having a general stock of extra truths, of 
ideas that shall be true of merely possible situations, is 
obvious. We store such extra truths away in our mem- 
ories, and with the overflow we fill our books of refer- 
ence. Whenever such an extra truth becomes practically 
relevant to one of our emergencies, it passes from cold- 
storage to do work in the world and our belief in it grows 
active. You can say of it then either that It is useful be- 
cause it is true' or that 'it is true because it is useful.* 
Both these phrases mean exactly the same thing, namely 
that here is an idea that gets fulfilled and can be verified. 
True is the name for whatever idea starts the 
verification-process, useful is the name for its completed 
function in experience. True ideas would never have 
been singled out as such, would never have acquired a 
class-name, least of all a name suggesting value, unless 
they had been useful from the outset in this way. 

From this simple cue pragmatism gets her general no- 
tion of truth as something essentially bound up with the 
way in which one moment in our experience may lead 
us towards other moments which it will be worth while 
to have been led to. Primarily, and on the common-sense 
level, the truth of a state of mind means this function of 
a leading that is worth while. When a moment in our 
experience, of any kind whatever, inspires us with 
a thought that is true, that means that sooner or later 
we dip by that thought's guidance into the particulars 
of experience again and make advantageous connexion 
with them. This is a vague enough statement, but I beg 
you to retain it^ for it is essential 


Our experience meanwhile is all shot through with 
regularities. One bit of it can warn us to get ready for 
another bit, can 'intend* or be 'significant of that 
remoter object. The object's advent is the significance's 
verification. Truth, in these cases, meaning nothing but 
eventual verification, is manifestly incompatible with 
waywardness on our part. Woe to him whose beliefs play 
fast and loose with the order which realities follow in his 
experience; they will lead him nowhere or else make 
false connexions. 

By 'realities* or 'objects' here, we mean either things 
of common sense, sensibly present, or else common- 
sense relations, such as dates, places, distances, kinds, 
activities. Following our mental image of a house along 
the cow-path, we actually come to see the house; we 
get the image's full verification. Such simply and fully 
verified leadings are certainly the originals and proto- 
types of the truth-process. Experience offers indeed other 
forms of truth-process, but they are all conceivable as 
being primary verifications arrested, multiplied or substi- 
tuted one for another. 

Take, for instance, yonder object on the wall. You 
and I consider it to be a 'clock/ altho no one of us has 
seen the hidden works that make it one. We let our 
notion pass for true without attempting to verify. If 
truths mean verification-process essentially, ought we 
then to call such unverified truths as this abortive? No, 
for they form the overwhelmingly large number of the 
truths we live by. Indirect as well as direct verifications 
pass muster. Where circumstantial evidence is sufficient, 
we can go without eye-witnessing. Just as we here 
assume Japan to exist without ever having been there, 
because it works to do so, everything we know con- 
spiring with the belief, and nothing interfering, so we 
assume that thing to be a clock. We use it as a clock, 
regulating the length of our lecture by it The verifica- 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 137 

tion of the assumption here means its leading to no 
frustration or contradiction. Ver&ability of wheels and 
weights and pendulum is as good as verification. For 
one truth-process completed there are a million in our 
lives that function in this state of nascency. They turn 
us towards direct verification; lead us into the surround- 
ings of the objects they envisage; and then, if everything 
runs on harmoniously, we are so sure that verification 
is possible that we omit it, and are usually justified by all 
that happens. 

Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit 
system. Our thoughts and beliefs 'pass/ so long as noth- 
ing challenges them, just as bank-notes pass so long as 
nobody refuses them. But fhjs all points to direct face- 
to-face verifications somewhere, without which the 
fabric of truth collapses like a financial system with no 
cash-basis whatever. You accept my verification of one 
thing, I yours of another. We trade on each other's 
truth. But beliefs verified concretely by somebody are 
the posts of the whole superstructure. 

Another great reason beside economy of time for 
waiving complete verification in the usual business of 
life is that all things exist in kinds and not singly. Our 
world is found once for all to have that peculiarity. So 
that when we have once directly verified our ideas 
about one specimen of a kind, we consider ourselves 
free to apply them to other specimens without verifica- 
tion. A mind that habitually discerns the kind of thing 
before it, and acts by the law of the kind immediately, 
without pausing to verify, will be a *true* mind in ninety- 
nine out of a hundred emergencies, proved so by its 
conduct fitting everything it meets, and getting no refu- 

Indirectly or only potentially verifying processes may 
thus be true as well as full verification-processes. They 
work as true processes would work, give us the same 


advantages, and claim our recognition for the same 
reasons. All this on the common-sense level of matters 
of fact, which we are alone considering. 

But matters of fact are not our only stock in trade. 
Relations among purely mental ideas form another 
sphere where true and false beliefs obtain, and here the 
beliefs are absolute, or unconditional. When they are 
true they bear the name either of definitions or of prin- 
ciples. It is either a principle or a definition that i and 
i make 2, that 2 and i make 3, and so on; that white 
differs less from gray than it does from black; that 
when the cause begins to act the effect also commences. 
Such propositions hold of all possible 'ones,* of all con- 
ceivable 'whites' and 'grays* and 'causes/ The objects 
here are mental objects. Their relations are perceptually 
obvious at a glance, and no sense-verification is nec- 
essary. Moreover, once true, always true, of those same 
mental objects. Truth here has an 'eternal* character. 
If you can find a concrete thing anywhere that is 'one' 
or 'white' or 'gray' or an 'effect/ then your principles will 
everlastingly apply to it. It is but a case of ascertaining 
the kind, and then applying the law of its kind to the 
particular object. You are sure to get truth if you can 
but name the kind rightly, for your mental relations hold 
good of everything of that kind without exception. If 
you then, nevertheless, failed to get truth concretely, 
you would say that you had classed your real objects 

In this realm of mental relations, truth again is an 
affair of leading. We relate one abstract idea with an- 
other, framing in the end great systems of logical and 
mathematical truth, tinder the respective terms of which 
the sensible facts of experience eventually arrange them- 
selves, so that our eternal truths hold good of realities 
also. This marriage of fact and theory is endlessly fertile. 

Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 139 

What we say is here already true in advance of special 
verification, if we have subsumed our objects rightly. 
Our ready-made ideal framework for all sorts of possible 
objects follows from the very structure of our thinking. 
We can no more play fast and loose with these abstract 
relations than we can do so with our sense-experiences. 
They coerce us; we must treat them consistently, 
whether or not we like the results. The rules of addition 
apply to our debts as rigorously as to our assets. The 
hundredth decimal of TT, the ratio of the circumference 
to its diameter, is predetermined ideally now, tho no one 
may have computed it. If we should ever need the figure 
in our dealings with an actual circle we should need to 
have it given rightly, calculated by the usual rules; for 
it is the same kind of truth that those rules elsewhere 

Between the coercions of the sensible order and those 
of the ideal order, our mind is thus wedged tightly. Our 
ideas must agree with realities, be such realities concrete 
or abstract, be they facts or be they principles, under 
penalty of endless inconsistency and frustration. 

So far, intellectualists can raise no protest. They can 
only say that we have barely touched the skin of the 

Realities mean, then, either concrete facts, or ab- 
stract kinds of thing and relations perceived intuitively 
between them. They furthermore and thirdly mean, as 
things that new ideas of ours must no less take account 
of, the whole body of other truths already in our pos- 
session. But what now does 'agreement* with such 
threefold realities mean? to use again the definition 
that is current. 

Here it is that pragmatism and intellectualism begin 
to part company. Primarily, no doubt, to agree means to 
copy, but we saw that the mere word 'dock* would do 


instead of a mental picture of its works, and that of 
many realities our ideas can only be symbols and not 
copies. Tast time/ 'power/ 'spontaneity,' how can our 
mind copy such realities? 

To 'agree' in the widest sense with a reality can only 
mean to be guided either straight up to it or into its 
surroundings, or to be put into such working touch with 
it as to handle either it or something connected with it 
better than if we disagreed. Better either intellectually 
or practically! And often agreement will only mean the 
negative fact that nothing contradictory from the quarter 
of that reality comes to interfere with the way in which 
our ideas guide us elsewhere. To copy a reality is, in- 
deed, one very important way of agreeing with it, but it 
is far from being essential. The essential thing is the 
process of being guided. Any idea that helps us to deal, 
whether practically or intellectually, with either the 
reality or its belongings, that doesn't entangle our prog- 
ress in frustrations, that fits, in fact, and adapts our life 
to the reality's whole setting, will agree sufficiently to 
meet the requirement. It will hold true of that reality. 

Thus, names are just as 'true' or 'false' as definite 
mental pictures are. They set up similar verification- 
processes, and lead to fully equivalent practical results. 

All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange 
ideas; we lend and borrow verifications, get them from 
one another by means of social intercourse. All truth 
thus gets verbally built out, stored up, and made avail- 
able for every one. Hence, we must talk consistently 
just as we must think consistently: for both in talk and 
thought we deal with kinds. Names are arbitrary, but 
once understood they must be kept to. We mustn't now 
call Abel 'Cain* or Cain 'Abel.* If we do, we ungear 
ourselves from the whole book of Genesis, and from all 
its connexions with the universe of speech and fact down 
to the present time. We throw ourselves out of whatever 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 141 

truth that entire system of speech and fact may embody. 

The overwhelming majority of our true ideas admit of 
no direct or face-to-face verification those of past his- 
tory, for example, as of Cain and Abel. The stream of 
time can be remounted only verbally, or verified indi- 
rectly by the present prolongations or effects of what the 
past harbored. Yet if they agree with these verbalities 
and effects, we can know that our ideas of the past are 
true. As true as past time itself was, so true was Julius 
Caesar, so true were antediluvian monsters, all in their 
proper dates and settings. That past time itself was, is 
guaranteed by its coherence with everything that's pres- 
ent. True as the present is, the past was also. 

Agreement thus turns out to be essentially an affair 
of leading leading that is useful because it is into 
quarters that contain objects that are important. True 
ideas lead us into useful verbal and conceptual quarters 
as well as directly up to useful sensible termini. They 
lead to consistency, stability and flowing human inter- 
course. They lead away from eccentricity and isolation, 
from foiled and barren thinking. The untrammelled flow- 
ing of the leading-process, its general freedom from 
clash and contradiction, passes for its indirect verifica- 
tion; but all roads lead to Rome, and in the end and 
eventually, all true processes must lead to the face of 
directly verifying sensible experiences somewhere, which 
somebody's ideas have copied. 

Such is the large loose way in which the pragmatist 
interprets the word agreement. He treats it altogether 
practically. He lets it cover any process of conduction 
from a present idea to a future terminus, provided only 
it run prosperously. It is only thus that 'scientific' ideas, 
flying as they do beyond common sense, can be said to 
agree with their realities. It is, as I have already said, 
as if reality were made of ether, atoms or electrons, but 
we mustn't think so literally. The term 'energy' doesn't 

even pretend to stand for anything 'objective/ It is only 
a way of measuring the surface of phenomena so as to 
string their changes on a simple formula. 

Yet in the choice of these man-made formulas we can 
not be capricious with impunity any more than we can 
be capricious on the common-sense practical level. We 
must find a theory that will work; and that means some- 
thing extremely difficult; for our theory must mediate 
between all previous truths and certain new experiences. 
It must derange common sense and previous belief as 
little as possible, and it must lead to some sensible 
terminus or other that can be verified exactly. To 'work' 
means both these things; and the squeeze is so tight 
that there is little loose play for any hypothesis. Our 
theories are wedged and controlled as nothing else is. 
Yet sometimes alternative theoretic formulas are equally 
compatible with all the truths we know, and then we 
choose between them for subjective reasons. We choose 
the kind of theory to which we are already partial; we 
follow 'elegance' or 'economy.' Clerk-Maxwell some- 
where says it would be 'poor scientific taste* to choose 
the more complicated of two equally well-evidenced 
conceptions; and you will all agree with him. Truth in 
science is what gives us the maximum possible sum of 
satisfactions, taste included, but consistency both with 
previous truth and with novel fact is always the most 
imperious claimant. 

I have led you through a very sandy desert But now, 
tf I may be allowed so vulgar an expression, we begin 
to taste the milk in the cocoanut. Our rationalist critics 
here discharge their batteries upon us, and to reply to 
them will take us out from all this dryness into full 
right of a momentous philosophical alternative. 

Our account of truth is an account of truths in the 
plural, of processes of leading, realized in rebus, and 

Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 143 

having only this quality in common, that they pay. They 
pay by guiding us into or towards some part of a system 
that dips at numerous points into sense-percepts, which 
we may copy mentally or not, but with which at any 
rate we are now in the kind of commerce vaguely 
designated as verification. Truth for us is simply a col- 
lective name for verification-processes, just as health, 
wealth, strength, etc., are names for other processes 
connected with life, and also pursued because it pays to 
pursue them. Truth is made, just as health, wealth and 
strength are made, in the course of experience. 

Here rationalism is instantaneously up in arms against 
us, I can imagine a rationalist to talk as follows: 

"Truth is not made," he will say; "it absolutely obtains, 
being a unique relation that does not wait upon any 
process, but shoots straight over the head of experience, 
and hits its reality every time. Our belief that yon thing 
on the wall is a clock is true already, altho no one in the 
whole history of the world should verify it. The bare 
quality *of standing in that transcendent relation is what 
makes any thought true that possesses it, whether or not 
there be verification. You pragmatists put the cart before 
the horse in making truth's being reside in verification- 
processes. These are merely signs of its being, merely 
our lame ways of ascertaining after the fact, which of 
our ideas already has possessed the wondrous quality. 
The quality itself is timeless, like all essences and na- 
tures. Thoughts partake of it directly, as they partake of 
falsity or of irrelevancy. It can't be analyzed away into 
pragmatic consequences," 

The whole plausibility of this rationalist tirade is due 
to the fact to which we have already paid so much 
attention. In our world, namely, abounding as it does in 
things of similar kinds and similarly associated, one 
verification serves for others of its kind, and one great 
use of knowing things is to be led not so much to them 


as to their associates, especially to human talk about 
them. The quality of truth, obtaining ante rem, prag- 
matically means, then, the fact that in such a world 
innumerable ideas work better by their indirect or pos- 
sible than by their direct and actual verification. Truth 
ante rem means only verifiability, then; or else it is a 
case of the stock rationalist trick of treating the name of 
a concrete phenomenal reality as an independent prior 
entity, and placing it behind the reality as its explana- 
tion. Professor Mach quotes somewhere an epigram of 

Sagt Hanschen Schlau zu Vetter Fritz, 
"Wie kommt e$, Vetter Fritzen, 
Doss gracT die Reichsten in der Welt, 
Das meiste Geld besitzen?" 

Hanschen Schlau here treats the principle 'wealth* as 
something distinct from the facts denoted by the man's 
being rich. It antedates them; the facts become only a 
sort of secondary coincidence with the rich man's essen- 
tial nature. 

In the case of 'wealth' we all see the fallacy. We know 
that wealth is but a name for concrete processes that 
certain men's lives play a part in, and not a natural 
excellence found in Messrs. Rockefeller and Carnegie, 
but not in the rest of us. 

Like wealth, health also lives in rebus. It is a name 
for processes, as digestion, circulation, sleep, etc., that 
go on happily, tho in this instance we are more inclined 
to think of it as a principle and to say the man digests 
and sleeps so well because he is so healthy. 

With 'strength* we are, I think, more rationalistic still, 
and decidedly inclined to treat it as an excellence pre- 
existing in the man and explanatory of the herculean 
performances of his muscles. 

With 'truth* most people go over the border entirely, 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 145 

and treat the rationalistic account as self-evident. But 
really all these words in th are exactly similar. Truth 
exists ante rem just as much and as little as the other 
things do. 

The scholastics, following Aristotle, made much of 
the distinction between habit and act Health in actu 
means, among other things, good sleeping and digesting. 
But a healthy man need not always be sleeping, or 
always digesting, any more than a wealthy man need be 
always handling money, or a strong man always lifting 
weights. All such qualities sink to the status of Tiabits* 
between their times of exercise; and similarly truth 
becomes a habit of certain of our ideas and beliefs in 
their intervals of rest from their verifying activities. But 
those activities are the root of the whole matter, and 
the condition of there being any habit to exist in the 

'The true' to put it very briefly., is only the expedient 
in the way of our thinking, just as e the right' is only 
the expedient in the way of our behaving. Expedient 
in almost any fashion; and expedient in the long run and 
on the whole of course; for what meets expediently all 
the experience in sight won't necessarily meet all far- 
ther experiences equally satisfactorily. Experience, as we 
know, has ways of boiling over, and making us correct 
our present formulas. 

The 'absolutely* true, meaning what no farther ex- 
perience will ever alter, is that ideal vanishing-point 
towards which we imagine that all our temporary truths 
will some day converge. It runs on all fours with the 
perfectly wise man, and with the absolutely complete 
experience; and, if these ideals are ever realized, they 
will all be realized together. Meanwhile we have to 
live to-day by what truth we can get to-day, and be 
ready to-morrow to call it falsehood. Ptolemaic astron- 
omy, euclidean space, aristotelian logic, scholastic meta- 


physics, were expedient for centuries, but human ex- 
perience has boiled over those limits, and we now call 
these things only relatively true, or true within those 
borders of experience. 'Absolutely' they are false; for \ve 
know that those limits were casual, and might have been 
transcended by past theorists just as they are by present 

When new experiences lead to retrospective judg- 
ments, using the past tense, what these judgments utter 
was true, even tho no past thinker had been led there. 
We live forwards, a Danish thinker has said, but we 
understand backwards. The present sheds a backward 
light on the world's previous processes. They may have 
been truth-processes for the actors in them. They are not 
so for one who knows the later revelations of the story. 

This regulative notion of a potential better truth to 
be established later, possibly to be established some day 
absolutely, and having powers of retroactive legislation, 
turns its face, like all pragmatist notions, towards con- 
creteness of fact, and towards the future. Like the half- 
truths, the absolute truth will have to be mode, made as 
a relation incidental to the growth of a mass of verifica- 
tion-experience, to which the half-true ideas are all 
along contributing their quota. 

I have already insisted on the fact that truth is made 
largely out of previous truths. Men's beliefs at any time 
are so much experience funded. But the beliefs are 
themselves parts of the sum total of the world's ex- 
perience, and become matter, therefore, for the next 
day's funding operations. So far as reality means ex- 
perienceable reality, both it and the truths men gain 
about it are everlastingly in process of mutation muta- 
tion towards a definite goal, it may be but still mutation. 

Mathematicians can solve problems with two vari- 
ables. On the Newtonian theory, for instance, accelera- 
tion varies with distance, but distance also varies with 

Pragmatisms Conception of Truth 147 

acceleration. In the realm of truth-processes facts come 
independently and determine our beliefs provisionally. 
But these beliefs make us act, and as fast as they do so, 
they bring into sight or into existence new facts which 
re-determine the beliefs accordingly. So the whole coil 
and ball of truth, as it rolls up, is the product of a 
double influence. Truths emerge from facts; but they 
dip forward into facts again and add to them; which 
facts again create or reveal new truth (the word is in- 
different) and so on indefinitely. The 'facts' themselves 
meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is the 
function of the beliefs that start and terminate among 

The case is like a snowball's growth, due as it is to the 
distribution of the snow on the one hand, and to the 
successive pushes of the boys on the other, with these 
factors co-determining each other incessantly* 

The most fateful point of difference between being a 
rationalist and being a pragmatist is now fully in sight. 
Experience is in mutation, and our psychological ascer- 
tainments of truth are in mutation so much rationalism 
will allow; but never that either reality itself or truth 
itself is mutable. Reality stands complete and ready- 
made from all eternity, rationalism insists, and the agree- 
ment of our ideas with it is that unique unanalyzable 
virtue in them of which she has already told us. As that 
intrinsic excellence, their truth has nothing to do with 
our experiences. It adds nothing to the content of ex- 
perience. It makes no difference to reality itself; it is 
supervenient, inert, static, a reflexion merely. It doesn't 
exist, it holds or obtains, it belongs to another dimension 
from that of either facts or fact-relations, belongs, in 
short, to the epistemological dimension and with that 
big word rationalism closes the discussion. 

Thus, just as pragmatism faces forward to the future. 


so does rationalism here again face backward to a past 
eternity. True to her inveterate habit, rationalism reverts 
to 'principles/ and thinks that when an abstraction once 
is named, we own an oracular solution. 

The tremendous pregnancy in the way of conse- 
quences for life of this radical difference of outlook will 
only become apparent in my later lectures. I wish 
meanwhile to close this lecture by showing that rational- 
ism's sublimity does not save it from inanity. 

When, namely, you ask rationalists, instead of accusing 
pragmatism of desecrating the notion of truth, to define 
it themselves by saying exactly what they understand 
by it, the only positive attempts I can think of are these 

1. "Truth is the system of propositions which have an 
unconditional claim to be recognized as valid." 1 

2. Truth is a name for all those judgments which we 
find ourselves under obligation to make by a kind of 
imperative duty. 2 

The first thing that strikes one in such definitions is 
their unutterable triviality. They are absolutely true, of 
course, but absolutely insignificant until you handle 
them pragmatically. What do you mean by 'claim* here, 
and what do you mean by 'duty? As summary names 
for the concrete reasons why thinking in true ways is 
overwhelmingly expedient and good for mortal men, it 
is all right to talk of claims on reality's part to be agreed 
with, and of obligations on our part to agree. We feel 
both the claims and the obligations, and we feel them 
for just those reasons. 

But the rationalists who talk of claim and obligation 
expressly say that they have nothing to do with our 
practical interests or personal reasons. Our reasons for 
agreeing are psychological facts, they say, relative to 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 149 

each thinker, and to the accidents of his life. They are 
his evidence merely, they are no part of the life of truth 
itself. That life transacts itself in a purely logical or 
epistemological, as distinguished from a psychological, 
dimension, and its claims antedate and exceed all per- 
sonal motivations whatsoever. Tho neither man nor God 
should ever ascertain truth, the word would still have to 
be defined as that which ought to be ascertained and 

There never was a more exquisite example of an idea 
abstracted from the concretes of experience and then 
used to oppose and negate what it was abstracted from* 

Philosophy and common life abound in similar in- 
stances. The 'sentimentalist fallacy' is to shed tears over 
abstract justice and generosity, beauty, etc., and never 
to know these qualities when you meet them in the 
street, because die circumstances make them vulgar. 
Thus I read in the privately printed biography of an 
eminently rationalistic mind: "It was strange that with 
such admiration for beauty in the abstract, my brother 
had no enthusiasm for fine architecture, for beautiful 
painting, or for flowers." And in almost the last philo- 
sophic work I have read, I find such passages as the 
following: "Justice is ideal, solely ideal. Reason con- 
ceives that it ought to exist, but experience shows that 
it can not. . . . Truth, which ought to be, can not be. 
. . . Reason is deformed by experience. As soon as 
reason enters experience it becomes contrary to reason.** 

The rationalist's fallacy here is exactly like the senti- 
mentalist's. Both extract a quality from the muddy 
particulars of experience, and find it so pure when ex- 
tracted that they contrast it with each and all its muddy 
instances as an opposite and higher nature. All the while 
it is their nature. It is the nature of truths to be validated, 
verified. It pays for our ideas to be validated. Our obliga* 


tioia to seek truth is part of our general obligation to do 
what pays. The payments true ideas bring are the sole 
why of our duty to follow them. Identical whys exist in 
the case of wealth and health. 

Truth makes no other kind of claim and imposes no 
other kind of ought than health and wealth do. All these 
claims are conditional; the concrete benefits we gain 
are what we mean by calling the pursuit a duty. In the 
case of truth, untrue beliefs work as perniciously in the 
long run as true beliefs work beneficially. Talking ab- 
stractly, the quality 'true' may thus be said to grow 
absolutely precious and the quality 'untrue' absolutely 
damnable: the one may be called good, the other bad, 
unconditionally. We ought to think the true, we ought 
to shun the false, imperatively. 

But if we treat all this abstraction literally and oppose 
it to its mother soil in experience, see what a preposter- 
ous position we work ourselves into. 

We can not then take a step forward in our actual 
thinking. When shall I acknowledge this truth and when 
that? Shall the acknowledgment be loud? or silent? 
If sometimes loud, sometimes silent, which now? When 
may a truth go into cold-storage in the encyclopedia? 
and when shall it come out for battle? Must I constantly 
be repeating the truth 'twice two are four' because of 
its eternal claim on recognition? or is it sometimes ir- 
relevant? Must my thoughts dwell night and day on my 
personal sins and blemishes, because I truly have them? 
or may I sink and ignore them in order to be a decent 
social unit, and not a mass of morbid melancholy and 

It is quite evident that our obligation to acknowledge 
truth, so far from being unconditional, is tremendously 
conditioned. Truth with a big T, and in the singular, 
claims abstractly to be recognized, of course; but con- 
crete truths in the plural need be recognized only when 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 151 

their recognition is expedient. A truth must always be 
preferred to a falsehood when both relate to the situa- 
tion; but when neither does, truth is as little of a duty 
as falsehood. If you ask me what o'clock it is and I tell 
you that I live at 95 Irving Street, my answer may 
indeed be true, but you don't see why it is my duty to 
give it. A false address would be as much to the purpose. 

With this admission that there are conditions that 
limit the application of the abstract imperative, the 
pragmatistic treatment of truth sweeps back upon us in 
its fulness. Our duty to agree with reality is seen to be 
grounded in a perfect jungle of concrete expediencies. 

When Berkeley had explained what people meant by 
matter, people thought that he denied matter's existence. 
When Messrs. Schiller and Dewey now explain what 
people mean by truth, they are accused of denying its 
existence. These pragmatists destroy all objective stand- 
ards, critics say, and put foolishness and wisdom on one 
level. A favorite formula for describing Mr. Schiller's 
doctrines and mine is that we are persons who think that 
by saying whatever you find it pleasant to say and call- 
ing it truth you fulfil every pragmatistic requirement. 

I leave it to you to judge whether this be not an 
impudent slander. Pent in, as the pragmatist more than 
any one else sees himself to be, between the whole 
body of funded truths squeezed from the past and the 
coercions of the world of sense about him, who so well 
as he feels the immense pressure of objective control 
under which our minds perform their operations? If any 
one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its 
commandment one day, says Emerson. We have heard 
much of late of the uses of the imagination in science. 
It is high time to urge the use of a little imagination in 
philosophy. The unwillingness of some of our critics to 
read any but the silliest of possible meanings into our 
statements is as discreditable to their imaginations as 


anything I know in recent philosophic history. Schiller 
says the true is that which 'works/ Thereupon he is 
treated as one who limits verification to the lowest 
material utilities. Dewey says truth is what gives 'satis- 
faction/ He is treated as one who believes in calling 
everything true which, if it were true, would be pleasant 
Our critics certainly need more imagination of real- 
ities. I have honestly tried to stretch my own imagina- 
tion and to read the best possible meaning into the 
rationalist conception, but I have to confess that it still 
completely baffles me. The notion of a reality calling on 
us to 'agree' with it, and that for no reasons, but simply 
because its claim is 'unconditional* or 'transcendent,' is 
one that I can make neither head nor tail of. I try to 
imagine myself as the sole reality in the world, and 
then to imagine what more I would 'claim* if I were 
allowed to. If you suggest the possibility of my claiming 
that a mind should come into being from out of the void 
inane and stand and copy me, I can indeed imagine what 
the copying might mean, but I can conjure up no 
motive. What good it would do me to be copied, or what 
good it would do that mind to copy me, if further 
consequences are expressly and in principle ruled out as 
motives for the claim (as they are by our rationalist 
authorities) I can not fathom. When the Irishman's 
admirers ran him along to the place of banquet in a 
sedan chair with no bottom, he said, "Faith, if it wasn't 
for the honor of the thing, I might as well have come 
on foot" So here: but for the honor of the thing, I 
might as well have remained uncopied. Copying is one 
genuine mode of knowing (which for some strange 
reason our contemporary transcendentalists seem to be 
tumbling over each other to repudiate); but when we 
get beyond copying, and fall back on unnamed forms of 
agreeing that are expressly denied to be either copyings 
or leadings or fittings, or any other processes pragmat- 

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 153 

ically definable, the what of the 'agreement' claimed 
becomes as unintelligible as the why of it Neither 
content nor motive can be imagined for it It is an 
absolutely meaningless abstraction. 3 

Surely in this field of truth it is the pragmatists and 
not the rationalists who are the more genuine defenders 
of the universe's rationality. 

SEVEN: Pragmatism and Humanism 



What hardens the heart of every one I approach with 
the view of truth sketched in my last lecture is that 
typical idol of the tribe, the notion of the Truth, con- 
ceived as the one answer, determinate and complete, to 
the one fixed enigma which the world is believed to 
propound. For popular tradition, it is all the better if 
the answer be oracular, so as itself to awaken wonder as 
an enigma of the second order, veiling rather than re- 
vealing what its profundities are supposed to contain. 
All the great single-word answers to the world's riddle, 
such as God, the One, Reason, Law, Spirit, Matter, 
Nature, Polarity, the Dialectic Process, tie Idea, the 
Self, the Oversoul, draw the admiration that men have 
lavished on them from this oracular role. By amateurs 
in philosophy and professionals alike, the universe is 
represented as a queer sort of petrified sphinx whose 
appeal to men consists in a monotonous challenge to his 
divining powers. The Truth: what a perfect idol of the 
rationalistic mind! I read in an old letter from a gifted 
friend who died too young these words: *ln everything, 
in science, art, morals and religion, there must be one 
system that is right and every other wrong." How char- 



acteristic of the enthusiasm of a certain stage of youth! 
At twenty-one we rise to such a challenge and expect 
to find the system. It never occurs to most of us even 
later that the question 'what is the truth?' is no real 
question (being irrelative to all conditions) and that the 
whole notion of the truth is an abstraction from the 
fact of truths in the plural, a mere useful summarizing 
phrase like the Latin Language or the Law. 

Common-law judges sometimes talk about the law, 
and schoolmasters talk about the latin tongue, in a way 
to make their hearers think they mean entities pre- 
existent to the decisions or to the words and syntax, 
determining them unequivocally and requiring them to 
obey. But the slightest exercise of reflexion makes us 
see that, instead of being principles of this kind, both 
law and latin are results. Distinctions between the law- 
ful and the unlawful in conduct, or between the correct 
and incorrect in speech, have grown up incidentally 
among the interactions of men's experiences in detail; 
and in no other way do distinctions between the true 
and the false in belief ever grow up. Truth grafts itself 
on previous truth, modifying it in the process, just as 
idiom grafts itself on previous idiom, and law on previous 
law. Given previous law and a novel case, and the judge 
will twist them into fresh law. Previous idiom; new 
slang or metaphor or oddity that hits the public taste; 
and presto, a new idiom is made. Previous truth; fresh 
facts: and our mind finds a new truth. 

All the while, however, we pretend that the eternal is 
unrolling, that the one previous j'ustice, grammar or 
truth are simply fulgurating and not being made. But 
imagine a youth in the courtroom trying cases with his 
abstract notion of 'the* law, or a censor of speech let 
loose among the theatres with his idea of 'the' mother- 
tongue, or a professor setting up to lecture on the actual 
universe with his rationalistic notion of 'the Truth* with 

Pragmatism and Humanism 159 

a big T, and what progress do they make? Truth, law, 
and language fairly boil away from them at the least 
touch of novel fact These things make themselves as 
we go. Our rights, wrongs, prohibitions, penalties, words, 
forms, idioms, beliefs, are so many new creations that 
add themselves as fast as history proceeds. Far from 
being antecedent principles that animate the process, 
law, language, truth are but abstract names for its 

Laws and languages at any rate are thus seen to be 
man-made things. Mr. Schiller applies the analogy to 
beliefs, and proposes the name of 'Humanism* for the 
doctrine that to an unascertainable extent our truths are 
man-made products too. Human motives sharpen all 
our questions, human satisfactions lurk in all our answers, 
all our formulas have a human twist. This element is so 
inextricable in the products that Mr. Schiller sometimes 
seems almost to leave it an open question whether there 
be anything else. "The world," he says, "is essentially 
X&7, it is what we make it. It is fruitless to define it by 
what it originally was or by what it is apart from us; it 
is what is made of it. Hence ... the world is plastic.** 1 
He adds that we can learn the limits of the plasticity 
only by trying, and that we ought to start as if it were 
wholly plastic, acting methodically on that assumption, 
and stopping only when we are decisively rebuked. 

This is Mr. Schiller's butt-end-foremost statement of 
the humanist position, and it has exposed him to severe 
attack. I mean to defend the humanist position in this 
lecture, so I will insinuate a few remarks at this point 

Mr. Schiller admits as emphatically as any one the 
presence of resisting factors in every actual experience 
of truth-making, of which the new-made special truth 
must take account, and with which it has perforce to 
'agree.* All our truths are beliefs about Heality'; and in 
any particular belief the reality acts as something in- 


dependent, as a thing found, not manufactured. Let me 
here recall a bit of my last lecture. 

'Reality is in general what truths have to take account 
off and the first part of reality from this point of view 
is the flux of our sensations. Sensations are forced upon 
us, coming we know not whence. Over their nature, 
order and quantity we have as good as no control. They 
are neither true nor false; they simply are. It is only 
what we say about them, only the names we give them, 
our theories of their source and nature and remote 
relations, that may be true or not 

The second part of reality, as something that our 
beliefs must also obediently take account of is the 
relations that obtain between our sensations or between 
their copies in our minds. This part falls into two sub- 
parts: i) the relations that are mutable and accidental, 
as those of date and place; and 2) those that are fixed 
and essential because they are grounded on the inner 
natures of their terms. Both sorts of relation are matters 
of immediate perception. Both are 'facts/ But it is the 
latter kind of fact that forms the more important sub- 
part of reality for our theories of knowledge. Inner 
relations namely are 'eternal,' are perceived whenever 
their sensible terms are compared; and of them our 
thought mathematical and logical thought so-called 
must eternally take account. 

The third part of reality, additional to these percep- 
tions (tho largely based upon them), is the previous 
truths of which every new inquiry takes account. This 
third part is a much less obdurately resisting factor: 
it often ends by giving way. In speaking of these three 
portions of reality as at all times controlling our beliefs 
formation, I am only reminding you of what we heard 
in our last hour. 

Now however fixed these elements of reality may be, 
we still have a certain freedom in our dealings with 

Pragmatism and Humanism 161 

them. Take our sensations. That they are is undoubtedly 
beyond our control; but which we attend to, note, and 
make emphatic in our conclusions depends on our own 
interests; and, according as we lay the emphasis here 
or there, quite different formulations of truth result. We 
read the same facts differently. Waterloo/ with the same 
fixed details, spells a 'victory' for an Englishman; for a 
Frenchman it spells a 'defeat/ So, for an optimist philos- 
opher the universe spells victory, for a pessimist, defeat. 

What we say about reality thus depends on the per- 
spective into which we throw it. The that of it is its own; 
but the what depends on the tcltich; and the which 
depends on us. Both the sensational and the relational 
parts of reality are dumb; they say absolutely nothing 
about themselves. We it is who have to speak for them. 
This dumbness of sensations has led such intellectualists 
as T. H. Green and Edward Caird to shove them almost 
beyond the pale of philosophic recognition, but pragma- 
tists refuse to go so far. A sensation is rather like a client 
who has given his case to a lawyer and then has passively 
to listen in the courtroom to whatever account of his 
affairs, pleasant or unpleasant, the lawyer finds it most 
expedient to give. 

Hence, even in the field of sensation, our minds exert 
a certain arbitrary choice. By our inclusions and omis- 
sions we trace the field's extent; by our emphasis we 
mark its foreground and its background; by our order we 
read it in this direction or in that. We receive in short 
the block of marble, but we carve the statue ourselves* 

This applies to the 'eternal' parts of reality as well: 
we shuffle our perceptions of intrinsic relation and 
arrange them just as freely. We read them in one serial 
order or another, class them in this way or in that, treat 
one or the other as more fundamental, until our beliefs 
about them form those bodies of truth known as logics, 
geometries, or arithmetics, in each and all of which the 


form and order in which the whole is cast is flagrantly 

Thus, to say nothing of the new facts which men add 
to the matter of reality by the acts of their own lives, 
they have already impressed their mental forms on that 
whole third of reality which I have called 'previous 
truths/ Every hour brings its new percepts, its own 
facts of sensation and relation, to be truly taken account 
of; but the whole of our past dealings with such facts is 
already funded in the previous truths. It is therefore only 
the smallest and recentest fraction of the first two parts 
of reality that comes to us without the human touch, 
and that fraction has immediately to become humanized 
in the sense of being squared, assimilated, or in some way 
adapted, to the humanized mass already there. As a 
matter of fact we can hardly take in an impression at 
all, in the absence of a preconception of what impres- 
sions there may possibly be. 

When we talk of reality 'independent' of human think- 
ing, then, it seems a thing very hard to find. It reduces 
to the notion of what is just entering into experience and 
yet to be named, or else to some imagined aboriginal 
presence in experience, before any belief about the 
presence had arisen, before any human conception had 
been applied. It is what is absolutely dumb and evanes- 
cent, the merely ideal limit of our minds. We may 
glimpse it, but we never graps it; what we grasp is 
always some substitute for it which previous human 
thinking has peptonized and cooked for our consump- 
tion. If so vulgar an expression were allowed us, we 
might say that wherever we find it, it has been already 
faked,, This is what Mr. Schiller has in mind when he 
calls independent reality a mere unresisting tfXij, which 
is only to be made over by us. 

That is Mr. Schiller's belief about the sensible core of 
reality. We 'encounter 11 it (in Mr. Bradley's words) but 

Pragmatism and Humanism 163 

don't possess it. Superficially this sounds like Kant's 
view; but between categories fulminated before nature 
began, and categories gradually forming themselves in 
nature's presence, the whole chasm between rationalism 
and empiricism yawns. To the genuine 'Kantianer* 
Schiller will always be to Kant as a satyr to Hyperion. 

Other pragmatists may reach more positive beliefs 
about the sensible core of reality. They may think to 
get at it in its independent nature, by peeling off the 
successive man-made wrappings. They may make 
theories that tell us where it comes from and all about 
it; and if these theories work satisfactorily they will be 
true. The transcendental idealists say there is no core, 
the finally completed wrapping being reality and truth 
in one. Scholasticism still teaches that the core is 'matter/ 
Professor Bergson, Heyrnans, Strong, and others believe 
in the core and bravely try to define it. Messrs. Dewey 
and Schiller treat it as a limit/ Which is the truer of all 
these diverse accounts, or of others comparable with 
them, unless it be the one that finally proves the most 
satisfactory? On the one hand there will stand reality, 
on the other an account of it which it proves impossible 
to better or to alter. If the impossibility prove perma- 
nent, the truth of the account will be absolute. Other 
content of truth than this I can find nowhere. If the anti- 
pragmatists have any other meaning, let them for 
heaven's sake reveal it, let them grant us access to it! 

Not being reality, but only our belief about reality, it 
will contain human elements, but these will know the 
non-human element, in the only sense in which there 
can be knowledge of anything. Does the river make its 
banks, or do the banks make the river? Does a man walk 
with his right leg or with his left leg more essentially? 
Just as impossible may it be to separate the real from 
the human factors in the growth of our cognitive ex- 


Let this stand as a first brief indication of the human- 
istic position. Does it seem paradoxical? If so, I will try 
to make it plausible by a few illustrations, which will 
lead to a fuller acquaintance with the subject. 

In many familiar objects every one will recognize the 
human element We conceive a given reality in this way 
or in that, to suit our purpose, and the reality passively 
submits to the conception. You can take the number 
27 as the cube of 3, or as the product of 3 and 9, or as 
26 plus i, or 100 minus 73, or in countless other ways, 
of which one will be just as true as another. You can 
take a chess-board as black squares on a white ground, 
or as white squares on a black ground, and neither 
conception is a false one. 

You can treat the adjoined figure as a star, as two big 
triangles crossing each other, as a hexagon with legs 
set up on its angles, as six equal triangles hanging to- 
gether by their tips, etc. All these treatments are true 
treatments the sensible that upon the paper 
resists no one of them. You can say of a line 
that it runs east, or you can say that it runs 
west, and the line per se accepts both descrip- 
tions without rebelling at the inconsistency. 

We carve out groups of stars in the heavens, and call 
them constellations, and the stars patiently suffer us to do 
so, though if they knew what we were doing, some of 
them might feel much surprised at the partners we had 
given them. We name the same constellation diversely, 
as Charles's Wain, the Great Bear, or the Dipper. None 
of the names will be false, and one will be as true as 
another, for all are applicable. 

In all these cases we humanly make an addition to 
some sensible reality, and that reality tolerates the 
addition. All the additions 'agree* with the reality; they 
fit it, while they build it out No one of them is false. 
Which may be treated as the more true, depends alto- 

Pragmatism and Humanism 165 

gether on the human use of it. If the 27 is a number of 
dollars \vhich I find in a drawer where I had left 28, it 
is 28 minus i. If it is the number of inches in a board 
which I wish to insert as a shelf into a cupboard 26 
inches wide, it is 26 plus i. If I wish to ennoble the 
heavens by the constellations I see there, 'Charles's 
Wain* would be more true than 'Dipper/ My friend 
Frederick Myers was humorously indignant that that 
prodigious star-group should remind us Americans of 
nothing but a culinary utensil. 

What shall we call a thing anyhow? It seems quite 
arbitrary, for we carve out everything, just as we carve 
out constellations, to suit our human purposes. For me, 
this whole 'audience* is one thing, which grows now 
restless, now attentive. I have no use at present for its 
individual units, so I don't consider them. So of an 'army/ 
of a 'nation/ But in your own eyes, ladies and gentlemen, 
to call you 'audience' is an accidental way of taking you. 
The permanently real things for you are your individual 
persons. To an anatomist, again, those persons are but 
organisms, and the real things are the organs. Not the 
organs, so much as their constituent cells, say the his- 
tologists; not the cells, but their molecules, say in turn 
the chemists. 

We break the flux of sensible reality into things, then, 
at our will. We create the subjects of our true as well as 
of our false propositions. 

We create the predicates also. Many of the predicates 
of things express only the relations of the things to us 
and to our feelings. Such predicates of course are human 
additions. Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and was a menace 
to Rome's freedom. He is also an American schoolroom 
pest, made into one by the reaction of our schoolboys on 
his writings. The added predicate is as true of him as the 
earlier ones. 

You see how naturally one comes to the humanistic 


principle: you can't weed out the human contribution. 
Our nouns and adjectives are all humanized heirlooms, 
and in the theories we build them into, the inner order 
and arrangement is wholly dictated by human con- 
siderations, intellectual consistency being one of them. 
Mathematics and logic themselves are fermenting with 
human rearrangements; physics, astronomy and biology 
follow massive cues of preference. We plunge forward 
into the field of fresh experience with the beliefs our 
ancestors and we have made already; these determine 
what we notice; what we notice determines what we do; 
what we do again determines what vre experience; so 
from one thing to another, altho the stubborn fact re- 
mains that there is a sensible flux, what is true of it 
seems from first to last to be largely a matter of our own 

We build the flux out inevitably. The great question 
is: does it, with our additions, rise or fall in value? Are 
the additions worthy or unworthy? Suppose a universe 
composed of seven stars, and nothing else but three 
human witnesses and their critic. One witness names the 
stars 'Great Bear'; one calls them "Charles's Wain'; one 
calls them the 'Dipper/ Which human addition has made 
the best universe of the given stellar material? If Fred- 
erick Myers were the critic, he would have no hesitation 
in 'turning down" the American witness. 

Lotze has in several places made a deep suggestion. 
We naively assume, he says, a relation between reality 
and our minds which may be just the opposite of the 
true one. Reality, we naturally think, stands ready-made 
and complete, and our intellects supervene with the one 
simple duty of describing it as it is already. But may not 
our descriptions, Lotze asks, be themselves important 
additions to reality? And may not previous reality itself 
be there, far less for the purpose of reappearing unal- 
tered in our knowledge, than for the very purpose of 

Pragmatism and Humanism 167 

stimulating our minds to such additions as shall enhance 
the universe's total value, 'Die erhdhung des vorge- 
fundcnen da&eins is a phrase used by Professor Eucken 
somewhere, which reminds one of this suggestion by the 
great Lotze. 

It is identically our pragmatistic conception. In our 
cognitive as well as in our active life we are creative. 
We add, both to the subject and to the predicate part of 
reality. The world stands really malleable, waiting to 
receive its final touches at our hands. Like the kingdom 
of heaven, it suffers human violence willingly. Man 
engenders truths upon it. 

No one can deny that such a r61e would add both to 
our dignity and to our responsibility as thinkers. To some 
of us it proves a most inspiring notion. Signore Papini, 
the leader of Italian pragmatism, grows fairly dithyram- 
bic over the view that it opens of man's divinely-creative 

The import of the difference between pragmatism and 
rationalism is now in sight throughout its whole extent. 
The essential contrast is that for rationalism reality is 
ready-made and complete from all eternity, while for 
pragmatism it is still in the making, and awaits part of 
its complexion from the future. On the one side the 
universe is absolutely secure, on the other it is still 
pursuing its adventures. 

We have got into rather deep water with this human- 
istic view, and it is no wonder that misunderstanding 
gathers round it It is accused of being a doctrine of 
caprice. Mr. Bradley, for example, says that a humanist, 
if he understood his own doctrine, would have to liold 
any end, however perverted, to be rational, if I insist on 
it personally, and any idea, however mad, to be the 
truth if only some one is resolved that he will have it 
so/ The humanist view of 'reality/ as something resist- 
ing, yet malleable, which controls our thinking as an 


energy that must be taken 'account' of incessantly (tho 
not necessarily merely copied) is evidently a difficult one 
to introduce to novices. The situation reminds me of one 
that I have personally gone through. I once wrote an 
essay on our right to believe, which I unluckily called 
the Will to Believe. All the critics, neglecting the essay, 
pounced upon the title. Psychologically it was impos- 
sible, morally it was iniquitous. The 'will to deceive/ 
the 'will to make-believe/ were wittily proposed as 
substitutes for it 

The alternative between pragmatism and rationalism, 
in the shape in which we now have it before us, is 
no longer a question in the theory of knowledge, it 
concerns the structure of the universe itself. 

On the pragmatist side we have only one edition of 
the universe, unfinished, growing in all sorts of places, 
especially in the places where thinking beings are at 

On the rationalist side we have a universe in many 
editions, one real one, the infinite folio, or edition de 
luxe, eternally complete; and then the various finite 
editions, full of false readings, distorted and mutilated 
each in its own way. 

So the rival metaphysical hypotheses of pluralism and 
monism here come back upon us. I will develop their 
differences during the remainder of our hour. 

And first let me say that it is impossible not to see a 
temperamental difference at work in the choice of sides. 
The rationalist mind, radically taken, is of a doctrinaire 
and authoritative complexion: the phrase 'must be* is 
ever on its lips. The bellyband of its universe must be 
tight. A radical pragmatist on the other hand is a happy- 
go-lucky anarchistic sort of creature. If he had to live in 
a tub like Diogenes he wouldn't mind at all if the hoops 
were loose and the staves let in the sun. 

Now the idea of this loose universe affects your 

Pragmatism and Humanism 169 

typical rationalists in much the same way as 'freedom 
of the press* might affect a veteran official in the Russian 
bureau of censorship; or as 'simplified spelling' might 
affect an elderly schoolmistress. It affects him as the 
swarm of protestant sects affects a papist onlooker. It 
appears as backboneless and devoid of principle as 
'opportunism' in politics appears to an old-fashioned 
French legitimist, or to a fanatical believer in the divine 
right of the people. 

For pluralistic pragmatism, truth grows up inside of 
all the finite experiences. They lean on each other, but 
the whole of them, if such a whole there be, leans on 
nothing. All liomes' are in finite experience; finite ex- 
perience as such is homeless. Nothing outside of the 
flux secures the issue of it. It can hope salvation only 
from its own intrinsic promises and potencies. 

To rationalists this describes a tramp and vagrant 
world, adrift in space, with neither elephant nor tortoise 
to plant the sole of its foot upon. It is a set of stars 
hurled into heaven without even a centre of gravity to 
pull against. In other spheres of life it is true that we 
have got used to living in a state of relative insecurity. 
The authority of 'the State,' and that of an absolute 
'moral law/ have resolved themselves into expediencies, 
and holy church has resolved itself into 'meeting-houses/ 
Not so as yet within the philosophic classrooms. A 
universe with such as us contributing to create its truth, 
a world delivered to our opportunisms and our private 
judgments! Home-rule for Ireland would be a millennium 
in comparison. We're no more fit for such a part than 
the Filipinos are *fit for self-government/ Such a world 
would not be respectable philosophically. It is a trunk 
without a tag, a dog without a collar in the eyes of most 
professors of philosophy. 

What then would tighten this loose universe, according 
to the professors? 


Something to support the finite many, to tie it to, to 
unify and anchor it. Something tin-exposed to accident, 
something eternal and unalterable. The mutable in ex- 
perience must be founded on immutability. Behind our 
de facto world, our world in act there must be a de jure 
duplicate fixed and previous, with all that can happen 
here already there in posse, ever) 7 drop of blood, every 
smallest item, appointed and provided, stamped and 
branded, without chance of variation. The negatives 
that haunt our ideals here below must be themselves 
negated in the absolutely Real. This alone makes the 
universe solid. This is the resting deep. We live upon 
the stormy surface; but with this our anchor holds, for 
it grapples rocky bottom. This is Wordsworth's 'eternal 
peace abiding at the heart of endless agitation/ This is 
Vivekananda's mystic One of which I read to you. This 
is Reality with the big R, reality that makes the timeless 
claim, reality to which defeat can't happen. This is what 
the men of principles, and in general all the men whom 
I called tender-minded in my first lecture, think them- 
selves obliged to postulate. 

And this, exactly this, is what the tough-minded of 
that lecture find themselves moved to call a piece of 
perverse abstraction-worship. The tough-minded are the 
men whose alpha and omega are -facts. Behind the bare 
phenomenal facts, as my tough-minded old friend Chaun- 
cey Wright, the great Harvard empiricist of my youth, 
used to say, there is nothing. When a rationalist insists 
that behind the facts there is the ground of the facts, 
the possibility of the facts, the tougher empiricists ac- 
cuse him of taking the mere name and nature of a fact 
and clapping it behind the fact as a duplicate entity to 
make it possible. That such sham grounds are often 
invoked is notorious. At a surgical operation I once 
heard a bystander ask a doctor why the patient breathed 
so deeply. 'Because ether is a respiratory stimulant,' the 

Pragmatism and Humanism 171 

doctor answered. 'Ah!' said the questioner, as if that were 
a good explanation. But this is like saying that cyanide 
of potassium kills because it is a 'poison/ or that it is so 
cold to-night because it is 'winter/ or that we have five 
fingers because we are 'pentadactyls/ These are but 
names for the facts, taken from the facts, and then 
treated as previous and explanatory. The tender-minded 
notion of an absolute reality is, according to the radically 
tough-minded, framed on just this pattern. It is but our 
summarizing name for the whole spread-out and strung- 
along mass of phenomena, treated as if it were a different 
entity, both one and previous. 

You see how differently people take things. The world 
we live in exists diffused and distributed, in the form of 
an indefinitely numerous lot of eaches, coherent in all 
sorts of ways and degrees; and the tough-minded are 
perfectly willing to keep them at that valuation. They 
can stand that kind of world, their temper being well 
adapted to its insecurity. Not so the tender-minded 
party. They must back the world we find ourselves born 
into by 'another and a better* world in which the eaches 
form an All and the All a One that logically presupposes, 
co-implicates, and secures each each without exception. 

Must we as pragmatists be radically tough-minded? 
or can we treat the absolute edition of the world as a 
legitimate hypothesis? It is certainly legitimate, for it is 
thinkable, whether we take it in its abstract or in its 
concrete shape. 

By taking it abstractly I mean placing it behind our 
finite life as we place the word 'winter* behind to-night's 
cold weather. *Winter' is only the name for a certain 
number of days which we find generally characterized 
by cold weather, but it guarantees nothing in that line, 
for our thermometer to-morrow may soar into the 70*5. 
Nevertheless the word is a useful one to plunge forward 
with into the stream of our experience. It cuts off certain 


probabilities and sets up others. You can put away your 
straw hats; you can unpack your arctics. It is a summary 
of things to look for. It names a part of nature's habits, 
and gets you ready for their continuation. It is a definite 
instrument abstracted from experience, a conceptual 
reality that you must take account of, and which reflects 
you totally back into sensible realities. The pragmatist 
is the last person to deny the reality of such abstractions. 
They are so much past experience funded. 

But taking the absolute edition of the world con- 
cretely means a different hypothesis. Rationalists take it 
concretely and oppose it to the world's finite editions. 
They give it a particular nature. It is perfect, finished. 
Everything known there is known along with every- 
thing else; here, where ignorance reigns, far otherwise. 
If there is want there, there also is the satisfaction 
provided. Here all is process; that world is timeless. 
Possibilities obtain in our world; in the absolute world, 
where all that is not is from eternity impossible, and aU 
that i$ is necessary, the category of possibility has no 
application. In this world crimes and horrors are regret- 
table. In that totalized world regret obtains not, for 'the 
existence of ill in the temporal order is the very condi- 
tion of the perfection of the eternal order/ 

Once more, either hypothesis is legitimate in prag- 
matist eyes, for either has its uses. Abstractly, or taken 
like the word winter, as a memorandum of past ex- 
perience that orients us towards the future, the notion 
of the absolute world is indispensable. Concretely taken, 
it is also indispensable, at least to certain minds, for it 
determines them religiously, being often a thing to 
change their lives by, and by changing their lives, to 
change whatever in the outer order depends on them. 

We can not therefore methodically join the tough 
minds in their rejection of the whole notion of a world 
beyond our finite experience. One misunderstanding of 

Pragmatism and Humanism 173 

pragmatism is to identify it with positivistic tough- 
mindedness, to suppose that it scorns every rationalistic 
notion as so much jabber and gesticulation, that it loves 
intellectual anarchy as such and prefers a sort of wolf- 
world absolutely unpent and wild and without a master 
or a collar to any philosophic classrooom product what- 
soever. I have said so much in these lectures against the 
over-tender forms of rationalism, that I am prepared for 
some misunderstanding here, but I confess that the 
amount of it that I have found in this very audience 
surprises me, for I have simultaneously defended ra- 
tionalistic hypotheses, so far as these re-direct you 
fruitfully into experience. 

For instance I receive this morning this question on a 
post-card: "Is a pragmatist necessarily a complete mate- 
rialist and agnostic?" One of my oldest friends, who 
ought to know me better, writes me a letter that accuses 
the pragmatism I am recommending of shutting out all 
wider metaphysical views and condemning us to the 
most terre-a-terre naturalism. Let me read you some 
extracts from it. 

"It seems to me," my friend writes, "that the prag- 
matic objection to pragmatism lies in the fact that it 
might accentuate the narrowness of narrow minds. 

^Tour call to the rejection of the namby-pamby and 
the wishy-washy is of course inspiring. But altho it is 
salutary and stimulating to be told that one should be 
responsible for the immediate issues and bearings of his 
words and thoughts, I decline to be deprived of the 
pleasure and profit of dwelling also on remoter bearings 
and issues, and it is the tendency of pragmatism to 
refuse this privilege. 

"In short, it seems to me that the limitations, or rather 
the dangers, of the pragmatic tendency, are analogous to 
those which beset the unwary followers of the 'natural 
sciences.* Chemistry and physics are eminently prag- 


matic; and many of their devotees, smugly content with 
the data that their weights and measures furnish, feel 
an infinite pity and disdain for all students of philosophy 
and metaphysics whomsoever. And of course everything 
can be expressed, after a fashion, and 'theoretically/ 
in terms of chemistry and physics, that is, everything 
except the vital principle of the whole, and that, they 
say, there is no pragmatic use in trying to express; it has 
no bearings for them. I for my part refuse to be per- 
suaded that we can not look beyond the obvious plural- 
ism of the naturalist and the pragmatist to a logical 
unity in which they take no interest" 

How is such a conception of the pragmatism I am 
advocating possible, after my first and second lectures? 
I have all along been offering it expressly as a mediator 
between tough-mindedness and tender-mindedness. If 
the notion of a world ante rem, whether taken abstractly 
like the word winter, or concretely as the hypothesis of 
an Absolute, can be shown to have any consequences 
whatever for our life, it has a meaning. If the meaning 
works, it will have some truth that ought to be held to 
through all possible reformulations, for pragmatism. 

The absolutistic hypothesis, that perfection is eternal, 
aboriginal, and most real, has a perfectly definite mean- 
ing, and it works religiously. To examine how, will be 
the subject of my next and final lecture. 

EIGHT: Pragmatism and Religion 



At the close of the last lecture I reminded you of the 
first one, in which I had opposed tough-mindedness to 
tender-mindedness and recommended pragmatism as 
their mediator. Tough-mindedness positively rejects ten- 
der-mindedness's hypothesis of an eternal perfect edition 
of the universe coexisting with our finite experience. 

On pragmatic principles we can not reject any hypoth- 
esis if consequences useful to life flow from it Univer- 
sal conceptions, as things to take account of, may be as 
real for pragmatism as particular sensations are. They 
have, indeed, no meaning and no reality if they have no 
use. But if they have any use they have that amount of 
meaning. And the meaning will be true if the use squares 
well with life's other uses. 

Well, the use of the Absolute is proved by the whole 
course of men's religious history. The eternal arms are 
then beneath. Remember Vivekananda's use of the 
Atman not indeed a scientific use, for we can make no 
particular deductions from it. It is emotional and spiritual 

It is always best to discuss things by the help of con- 
crete examples. Let me read therefore some of those 



verses entitled "To You' by Walt Whitman *You' of 
course meaning the reader or hearer of the poem who- 
soever he or she may be. 

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you that 

you be my poem; 

I whisper with my lips close to your ear, 
I have loved many men and women and men 9 but I love 

none better than you. 

I Jiave been dilatory and dumb; 

1 should have made my way to you long ago; 

I should liave blabbed nothing but you, I should have 
chanted nothing but you. 

1 will leave all and come and make the hymns of you; 

None have understood you, but I understand you; 

None have done justice to you you have not done justice 
to yourself; 

None but have found you imperfect I only find no im- 
perfection in you. 

I could sing such glories and grandeurs about you; 
You have not known what you are you have slumbered 

upon yourself all your life; 
What you have done returns already in mockeries. 

But the mockeries are not you; 

Underneath them and within them, I see you lurk; 

1 pursue you where none else lias pursued you. 
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the 

accustomed routine, if these conceal you from others, 
or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me; 

The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complex- 
ion, if these balk others, they do not balk me; 

The pert apparel, the deformed attitude, drunkenness, 
greed, premature death, all these I part aside. 

Pragmatism and Religion 179 

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tal- 
lied in you; 

There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as 
good is in you; 

No pluck nor endurance in others, but as good is in you; 

iVo pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure 
waits for you. 

Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard* 
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared 

with you; 
These immense meadows these interminable rivers you 

are immense and interminable as they; 

You are he or she who is master or mistress over them. 
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, eh- 
ments, pain, passion, dissolution. 

The hopples jail from your ankles you find an unfailing 

Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the 
rest whatever you are promulges itself; 

Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are pro- 
vided, nothing is scanted; 

Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what 
you are picks its way. 

Verily a fine and moving poem, in any case, but there 
are two ways of taldng it, both useful. 

One is the monistic way, the mystical way of pure 
cosmic emotion. The glories and grandeurs, they are 
yours absolutely, even in the midst of your defacements. 
Whatever may happen to you, whatever you may appear 
to be, inwardly you are safe. Look back, lie back, on 
your true principle of being! This is die famous way of 
quietism, of indifferentism. Its enemies compare it to a 


spiritual opium. Yet pragmatism must respect this way, 
for it has massive historic vindication. 

But pragmatism sees another way to be respected 
also, the pluralistic way of interpreting the poem. The 
you so glorified, to which the hymn is sung, may mean 
your better possibilities phenomenally taken, or the 
specific redemptive effects even of your failures, upon 
yourself or others. It may mean your loyalty to the 
possibilities of others whom you admire and love so that 
you are willing to accept your own poor life, for it is 
that glory's partner. You can at least appreciate, applaud, 
furnish the audience, of so brave a total world. Forget 
the low in yourself, then, think only of the high. Identify 
your life therewith; then, through angers, losses, ig- 
norance, ennui, whatever you thus make yourself, what- 
ever you thus most deeply are, picks its way. 

In either way of taking the poem, it encourages 
fidelity to ourselves. Both ways satisfy; both sanctify 
the human flux. Both paint the portrait of the you on a 
gold background. But the background of the first way is 
the static One, while in the second way it means pos- 
sibles in the plural, genuine possibles, and it has all the 
restlessness of that conception. 

Noble enough is either way of reading the poem; but 
plainly the pluralistic way agrees with the pragmatic 
temper best, for it immediately suggests an infinitely 
larger number of the details of future experience to our 
mind. It sets definite activities in us at work. Altho this 
second way seems prosaic and earth-born in comparison 
with the first way, yet no one can accuse it of tough- 
mindedness in any brutal sense of the term. Yet if, as 
pragmatists, you should positively set up the second way 
against the first way, you would very likely be mis- 
understood. You would be accused of denying nobler 
conceptions, and of being an ally of tough-mindedness 
in the worst sense. 

Pragmatism and Religion 181 

You remember the letter from a member of this 
audience from which I read some extracts at our pre- 
vious meeting. Let me read you an additional extract 
now. It shows a vagueness in realizing the alternatives 
before us which I think is very widespread. 

"I believe," writes my friend and correspondent, "in 
pluralism; I believe that in our search for truth \ve leap 
from one floating cake of ice to another, on an infinite 
sea, and that by each of our acts we make new truths 
possible and old ones impossible; I believe that each 
man is responsible for making the universe better, and 
that if he does not do this it will be in so far left undone. 

"Yet at the same time I am willing to endure that my 
children should be incurably sick and suffering (as they 
are not) and I myself stupid and yet with brains enough 
to see my stupidity, only on one condition, namely, that 
through the construction, in imagination and by reason- 
ing, of a rational unity of all things, I can conceive my 
acts and my thoughts and my troubles as supplemented 
by all the other phenomena of the world, and as forming 
when thus supplemented a scheme which I approve 
and adopt as my own; and for my part I refuse to be 
persuaded that we can not look beyond the obvious plu- 
ralism of the naturalist and pragmatist to a logical unity 
in which they take no interest or stock." 

Such a fine expression of personal faith warms the 
heart of the hearer. But how much does it clear his phil- 
osophic head? Does the writer consistently favor the 
monistic, or the pluralistic, interpretation of the world's 
poem? His troubles become atoned for when thus sup- 
plemented, he says, supplemented, that is, by all the 
remedies that the other phenomena may supply. Obvi- 
ously here the writer faces forward into the particulars 
of experience, which he interprets in a pluralistic- 
melioristic way. 

But he believes himself to face backward. He speaks 


of what he calls the rational unity of things, when all the 
while he really means their possible empirical unifi- 
cation. He supposes at the same time that the pragma- 
tist, because he criticises rationalism's abstract One, is 
cut off from the consolation of believing in the saving 
possibilities of the concrete many. He fails in short to 
distinguish between taking the world's perfection as a 
necessary principle, and taking it only as a possible ter- 
minus ad qucm. 

I regard the writer of the letter as a genuine pragma- 
tist, but as a pragmatist sans le sacoir. He appears to me 
as one of that numerous class of philosophic amateurs 
whom I spoke of in my first lecture, as wishing to have 
all the good things going, without being too careful as to 
how they agree or disagree. "Rational unity of all things' 
is so inspiring a formula, that he brandishes it off-hand, 
and abstractly accuses pluralism of conflicting with it 
{for the bare names do conflict), altho concretely he 
means by it just the pragmatistically unified and amel- 
iorated world. Most of us remain in this essential vague- 
ness, and it is well that we should; but in the interest of 
clearheadedness it is well that some of us should go far- 
ther, so I will try now to focus a little more discriminat- 
ingly on this particular religious point 

Is then this you of yous, this absolutely real world, 
this unity that yields the moral inspiration and has the 
religious value, to be taken monistically or pluralisti- 
cally? Is it ante rem or in rebus? Is it a principle or an 
end, an absolute or an ultimate, a first or a last? Does it 
make you look forward or lie back? It is certainly worth 
while not to clump the two things together, for if dis- 
criminated, they have decidedly diverse meanings for 

Please observe that the whole dilemma revolves prag- 
matically about the notion of the world's possibilities. 
Intellectually, rationalism invokes its absolute principle 

Pragmatism and Religion 183 

of unity, as a ground of possibility for the many facts. 
Emotionally, it sees it as a container and limiter of pos- 
sibilities, a guarantee that the upshot shall be good. 
Taken in this way, the absolute makes all good things 
certain, and all bad things impossible ('in the eternal, 
namely), and may be said to transmute the entire cate- 
gory of possibility into categories more secure. One sees 
at this point that the great religious difference lies be- 
tween the men who insist that the world must and shall 
be, and those who are contented with believing that the 
world may be, saved. The whole clash of rationalistic 
and empiricist religion is thus over the validity of possi- 
bility. It is necessary therefore to begin by focusing upon 
that word. What may the word 'possible' definitely mean? 
To unreflecting men it means a sort of third estate of 
being, less real than existence, more real than non- 
existence, a twilight realm, a hybrid status, a limbo into 
which and out of which realities ever and anon are made 
to pass. 

Such a conception is of course too vague and nonde- 
script to satisfy us. Here, as elsewhere, the only way to 
extract a term's meaning is to use the pragmatic method 
on it. When you say that a thing is possible, what differ- 
ence does it make? It makes at least this difference that if 
any one calls it impossible you can contradict him, if any 
one calls it actual you can contradict him, and if any one 
calls it necessary you can contradict him too. 

But these privileges of contradiction don't amount to 
much. When you say a thing is possible, does not that 
make some farther difference in terms of actual fact? 

It makes at least this negative difference that if the 
statement be true, it follows that there is nothing extant 
capable of preventing the possible thing. The absence 
of real grounds of interference may thus be said to make 
things not impossible, possible therefore in the bare or 
abstract sense. 


But most possibles are not bare, they are concretely 
grounded, or well-grounded, as we say. What does this 
mean pragmatically? It means not only that there are no 
preventive conditions present, but that some of the con- 
ditions of production of the possible thing actually are 
here. Thus a concretely possible chicken means: (i) that 
the idea of chicken contains no essential self- 
contradiction; (a) that no boys, skunks, or other enemies 
are about; and (3) that at least an actual egg exists. 
Possible chicken means actual egg plus actual sit- 
ting hen, or incubator, or what not. As the actual condi- 
tions approach completeness the chicken becomes a 
better-and-better-grounded possibility. When the condi- 
tions are entirely complete, it ceases to be a possibility, 
and turns into an actual fact. 

Let us apply this notion to the salvation of the world. 
What does it pragmatically mean to say that this is pos- 
sible? It means that some of the conditions of the world's 
deliverance do actually exist. The more of them there 
are existent, the fewer preventing conditions you can 
find, the better-grounded is the salvation's possibility, the 
more probable does the fact of the deliverance become. 

So much for our preliminary look at possibility. 

Now it would contradict the very spirit of life to say 
that our minds must be indifferent and neutral in ques- 
tions like that of the world's salvation. Any one who pre- 
tends to be neutral writes himself down here as a fool 
and a sham. We all do wish to minimize the insecurity 
of the universe; we are and ought to be unhappy when 
we regard it as exposed to every enemy and open to 
every life-destroying draft. Nevertheless there are un- 
happy men who think the salvation of the world impos- 
sible. TTieirs is the doctrine known as pessimism. 

Optimism in turn would be the doctrine that thinks 
the world's salvation inevitable. 

Midway between the two there stands what may be 

Pragmatism and Religion 185 

called the doctrine of meliorism, tho it has hitherto fig- 
ured less as a doctrine than as an attitude in human af- 
fairs. Optimism has always been the regnant doctrine in 
European philosophy. Pessimism was only recently in- 
troduced by Schopenhauer and counts few systematic 
defenders as yet. Meliorism treats salvation as neither 
necessary nor impossible. It treats it as a possibility, 
which becomes more and more of a probability the more 
numerous the actual conditions of salvation become. 

It is clear that pragmatism must incline towards melio- 
rism. Some conditions of the world's salvation are actu- 
ally extant, and she can not possibly close her eyes to 
this fact: and should the residual conditions come, sal- 
vation would become an accomplished reality. Naturally 
the terms I use here are exceedingly summary. You may 
interpret the word 'salvation' in any way you like, and 
make it as diffuse and distributive, or as climacteric 
and integral a phenomenon as you please. 

Take, for example, any one of us in this room with 
the ideals which he cherishes and is willing to live and 
work for. Every such ideal realized will be one moment 
in the world's salvation. But these particular ideals are 
not bare abstract possibilities. They are grounded, they 
are live possibilities, for we are their live champions and 
pledges, and if the complementary conditions come 
and add themselves, our ideals will become actual things, 
What now are the complementary conditions? They are 
first such a mixture of things as will in the fulness of time 
give us a chance, a gap that we can spring into, and, 
finally, our act. 

Does our act then create the world's salvation so far as 
it makes room for itself, so far as it leaps into the gap? 
Does it create, not the whole world's salvation of course, 
but just so much of this as itself covers of the world's 

Here I take the bull by the horns, and in spite of the 


whole crew of rationalists and monists, of whatever brand 
they be, I ask why not? Our acts, our turning-places, 
where we seem to ourselves to make ourselves and grow, 
are the parts of the world to which we are closest, the 
parts of which our knowledge is the most intimate and 
complete. Why should we not take them at their face- 
value? Why may they not be the actual turning-places 
and growing-places which they seem to be, of the world 
why not the workshop of being, where we catch fact 
in the making, so that nowhere may the world grow in 
any other kind of way than this? 

Irrational! we are told. How can new being come in 
local spots and patches which add themselves or stay 
away at random, independently of the rest? There must 
be a reason for our acts, and where in the last resort can 
any reason be looked for save in the material pressure 
or the logical compulsion of the total nature of the 
world? There can be but one real agent of growth, or 
seeming growth, anywhere, and that agent is the inte- 
gral world itself. It may grow all-over, if growth there 
be, but that single parts should grow per se is irrational. 

But if one talks of rationality and of reasons for 
things, and insists that they can't just come in spots, what 
kind of a reason can there ultimately be why anything 
should come at all? Talk of logic and necessity and cate- 
gories and the absolute and the contents of the whole 
philosophical machine-shop as you will, the only real 
reason I can think of why anything should ever come 
is that some one wishes it to be here. It is demanded, 
demanded, it may be, to give relief to no matter how 
small a fraction of the world's mass. This is living rea- 
son, and compared with it material causes and logical 
necessities are spectral things. 

In short the only fully rational world would be the 
world of wishing-caps, the world of telepathy, where ev- 
ery desire is fulfilled instanter, without having to con- 

Pragmatism and Religion 187 

sider or placate surrounding or intermediate powers. This 
is the Absolute's own world. He calls upon the phenome- 
nal world to be, and it ts, exactly as he calls for it, no 
other condition being required. In our world, the wishes 
of the individual are only one condition. Other individu- 
als are there with other wishes and they must be propi- 
tiated first. So Being grows under all sorts of resistances 
in this world of the many, and, from compromise to com- 
promise, only gets organized gradually into what may be 
called secondarily rational shape. We approach the 
wishing-cap type of organization only in a few depart- 
ments of life. We want water and we turn a faucet. We 
want a kodak-picture and we press a button. We want 
information and we telephone. We want to travel and 
we buy a ticket. In these and similar cases, we hardly 
need to do more than the wishing the world is rationally 
organized to do the rest. 

But this talk of rationality is a parenthesis and a di- 
gression. What we were discussing was the idea of a 
world growing not integrally but piecemeal by the con- 
tributions of its several parts. Take the hypothesis seri- 
ously and as a live one. Suppose that the world's author 
put the case to you before creation, saying: "I am going 
to make a world not certain to be saved, a world the per- 
fection of which shall be conditional merely, the condi- 
tion being that each several agent does its own level 
best/ I offer you the chance of taking part in such a 
world. Its safety, you see, is unwarranted. It is a real 
adventure, with real danger, yet it may win through. It 
is a social scheme of co-operative work genuinely to be 
done. Will you join the procession? Will you trust your- 
self and trust the other agents enough to face the risk?* 

Should you in all seriousness, if participation in such a 
world were proposed to you, feel bound to reject it as 
not safe enough? Would you say that, rather than be 
part and parcel of so fundamentally pluralistic and irra- 


tional a universe, you preferred to relapse into the slum- 
ber of nonentity from which you had been momentarily 
aroused by the tempter's voice? 

Of course if you are normally constituted, you would 
do nothing of the sort. There is a healthy-minded buoy- 
ancy in most of us which such a universe would exactly 
fit. We would therefore accept the offer "Top! und 
schlag auf schlag!" It would be just like the world we 
practically live in; and loyalty to our old nurse Nature 
would forbid us to say no. The world proposed would 
seem 'rational* to us in the most living way. 

Most of us, I say, would therefore welcome the propo- 
sition and add our fiat to the fat of the creator. Yet per- 
haps some would not; for there are morbid minds in every 
human collection, and to them the prospect of a universe 
with only a fighting chance of safety would probably 
make no appeal. There are moments of discouragement 
in us all, when we are sick of self and tired of vainly 
striving. Our own life breaks down, and we fall into 
the attitude of the prodigal son. We mistrust the chances 
of things. We want a universe where we can just give 
up, fall on our father's neck, and be absorbed into the 
absolute life as a drop of water melts into the river or 
the sea. 

The peace and rest, the security desiderated at such 
moments is security against the bewildering accidents 
of so much finite experience. Nirvana means safety from 
this everlasting round of adventures of which the world 
of sense consists. The hindoo and the buddhist, for this 
is essentially their attitude, are simply afraid, afraid of 
more experience, afraid of life. 

And to men of this complexion, religious monism 
comes with its consoling words: "All is needed and es- 
sential even you with your sick soul and heart All are 
one with God, and with God all is well. The everlast- 
ing arms are beneath, whether in the world of finite ap- 

Pragmatism and Religion 189 

pearance you seem to fail or to succeed.'* There can be 
no doubt that when men are reduced to their last sick 
extremity absolutism is the only saving scheme. Plural- 
istic moralism simply makes their teeth chatter, it re- 
frigerates the very heart within their breast. 

So we see concretely two types of religion in sharp 
contrast. Using our old terms of comparison, we may say 
that the absolutistic scheme appeals to the tender- 
minded while the pluralistic scheme appeals to the 
tough. Many persons would refuse to call the pluralistic 
scheme religious at all. They would call it moralistic, 
and would apply the word religious to the monistic 
scheme alone. Religion in the sense of self-surrender, 
and moralism in the sense of self-sufficingness, have been 
pitted against each other as incompatibles frequently 
enough in the history of human thought 

We stand here before the final question of philosophy. 
I said in my fourth lecture that I believed the monistic- 
pluralistic alternative to be the deepest and most preg- 
nant question that our minds can frame. Can it be that 
the disjunction is a final one? that only one side can be 
true? Are a pluralism and monism genuine incompatibles? 
So that, if the world were really pluralistically consti- 
tuted, if it really existed distributively and were made up 
of a lot of eaches, it could only be saved piecemeal and 
de facto as the result of their behavior, and its epic 
history in no wise short-circuited by some essential one- 
ness in which the severalness were already 'taken up* 
beforehand and eternally 'overcome? If this were so, we 
should have to choose one philosophy or the other. We 
could not say 'yes, yes* to both alternatives. There would 
have to be a 'no* in our relations with the possible. We 
should confess an ultimate disappointment: we could not 
remain healthy-minded and sick-minded in one indivisible 

Of course as human beings we can be healthy minds 


on one day and sick souls on the next; and as amateur 
dabblers in philosophy we may perhaps be allowed to 
call ourselves monistic pluralists, or free-will determin- 
ists, or whatever else may occur to us of a reconciling 
kind. But as philosophers aiming at clearness and con- 
sistency, and feeling the pragmatistic need of squaring 
truth with truth, the question is forced upon us of frankly 
adopting either the tender or the robustious type of 
thought. In particular this query has always come home 
to me: May not the claims of tender-mindedness go too 
Far? May not the notion of a world already saved in toto 
anyhow, be too saccharine to stand? May not religious 
optimism be too idyllic? Must all be saved? Is no price 
to be paid in the work of salvation? Is the last word 
sweet? Is all 'yes, yes' in the universe? Doesn't the 
fact of 'no' stand at the very core of life? Doesn't the very 
'seriousness' that we attribute to life mean that in- 
eluctable noes and losses form a part of it, that there are 
genuine sacrifices somewhere, and that something per- 
manently drastic and bitter always remains at the bot- 
tom of its cup? 

I can not speak officially as a pragmatist here; all I 
can say is that my own pragmatism offers no objection 
to my taking sides with this more moralistic view, and 
giving up the claim of total reconciliation* The possibil- 
ity of this is involved in the pragmatistic willingness to 
treat pluralism as a serious hypothesis. In the end it is 
our faith and not our logic that decides such questions, 
and I deny the right of any pretended logic to veto my 
own faith. I find myself willing to take the universe to 
be really dangerous and adventurous, without therefore 
backing out and crying 'no play.' I am willing to think 
that the prodigal-son attitude, open to us as it is in many 
vicissitudes, is not the right and final attitude towards 
the whole of life. I am willing that there should be real 
losses and real losers, and no total preservation of all 

Pragmatism and Religion 191 

that is. I can believe in the ideal as an ultimate, not as 
an origin, and as an extract, not the whole. When the 
cup is poured off, the dregs are left behind for ever, but 
the possibility of what is poured off is sweet enough to 

As a matter of fact countless human imaginations live 
in this moralistic and epic kind of a universe, and find its 
disseminated and strung-along successes sufficient for their 
rational needs. There is a finely translated epigram in the 
Greek anthology which admirably expresses this state of 
mind, this acceptance of loss as unatoned for, even 
though the lost element might be one's self: 

"A shipwrecked sailor, buried on this coast, 

Bids you set sail. 

Full many a gallant bark, when we were lost, 
Weathered the gale" 

Those puritans who answered *yes' to the question: 
Are you willing to be damned for God's glory? were in 
this objective and magnanimous condition of mind. The 
way of escape from evil on this system is not by getting 
it 'aufgehoben,* or preserved in the whole as an element 
essential but 'overcome/ It is by dropping it out alto- 
gether, throwing it overboard and getting beyond it, 
helping to make a universe that shall -forget its very 
place and name. 

It is then perfectly possible to accept sincerely a dras- 
tic kind of a universe from which the element of 'seri- 
ousness* is not to be expelled. Whoso does so is, it seems 
to me, a genuine pragmatist. He is willing to live on a 
scheme of uncertified possibilities which he trusts; will- 
ing to pay with his own person, if need be, for the reali- 
zation of the ideals which he frames. 

What now actually are the other forces which he trusts 
to co-operate with him, in a universe of such a type? 
They are at least his fellow men, in the stage of being 


which our actual universe has reached. But are there not 
superhuman forces also, such as religious men of the 
pluralistic type we have been considering have always 
believed in? Their words may have sounded monistic 
when they said "there is no God but God"; but the 
original polytheism of mankind has only imperfectly and 
vaguely sublimated itself into monotheism, and monothe- 
ism itself, so far as it was religious and not a scheme of 
classroom instruction for the metaphysicians, has always 
viewed God as but one helper, primus inter pares, in the 
midst of all the shapers of the great world's fate. 

I fear that my previous lectures, confined as they have 
been to human and humanistic aspects, may have left 
the impression on many of you that pragmatism means 
methodically to leave the superhuman out. I have shown 
small respect indeed for the Absolute, and I have until 
this moment spoken of no other superhuman hypothesis 
but that. But I trust that you see sufficiently that the 
Absolute has nothing but its superhumanness in common 
with the theistic God. On pragmatistic principles, if the 
hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense 
of the word, it is true. Now whatever its residual difficul- 
ties may be, experience shows that it certainly does work, 
and that the problem is to build it out and determine it 
so that it will combine satisfactorily with all the other 
working truths. I can not start upon a whole theology at 
the end of this last lecture; but when I tell you that I 
have written a book on men's religious experience, 
which on the whole has been regarded as making for 
the reality of God, you will perhaps exempt my own 
pragmatism from the charge of being an atheistic system. 
I firmly disbelieve, myself f that our human experience is 
the highest form of experience extant in the universe. I 
believe rather that we stand in much the same relation 
to the whole of the universe as our canine and feline 
pets do to the whole of human life. They inhabit our 

Pragmatism and Religion 193 

irawing-rooms and libraries. They take part in scenes 
f whose significance they have no inkling. They are 
lerely tangent to curves of history the beginnings and 
nds and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. 
!o we are tangent to the wider life of things. But, just as 
aany of the dog's and cat's ideals coincide with our 
deals, and the dogs and cats have daily living proof of 
he fact, so we may well believe, on the proofs that re- 
igious experience affords, that higher powers exist and 
re at work to save the world on ideal lines similar to 
iur own. 

You see that pragmatism can be called religious, if you 
llow that religion can be pluralistic or merely melioristic 
Q type. But whether you will finally put up with that 
ype of religion or not is a question that only you your- 
elf can decide. Pragmatism has to postpone dogmatic 
inswer, for we do not yet know certainly which type of 
eligion is going to work best in the long run. The vari- 
ous overbeliefs of men, their several faith-ventures, are 
Q fact what are needed to bring the evidence in. You 
vill probably make your own ventures severally. If radi- 
ally tough, the hurly-burly of the sensible facts of na- 
ure will be enough for you, and you will need no re- 
igion at all. If radically tender, you will take up with 
he more monistic form of religion: the pluralistic form, 
vith its reliance on possibilities that are not necessities, 
vill not seem to afford you security enough. 

But if you are neither tough nor tender in an extreme 
md radical sense, but mixed as most of us are, it may 
eem to you that the type of pluralistic and moralistic 
eligion that I have offered is as good a religious synthe-v 
is as you are likely to find. Between the two extremes) 
>f crude naturalism on the one hand and transcendental 
tbsolutism on the other, you may find that what I take 
he liberty of calling the pragmatistic or melioristic type 
)f theism is exactly what you require. 


The pivotal part of my book named Pragmatism is its 
account of the relation called 'truth' which may obtain 
between an idea (opinion, belief, statement, or what 
not) and its object. Truth/ I there say, Is a property of 
certain of our ideas. It means their agreement, as falsity 
means their disagreement, with reality. Pragmatists and 
intellectualists both accept this definition as a matter of 

Where our ideas [do] not copy definitely their object, 
what does agreement with that object mean? . . . Prag- 
matism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief 
to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its be- 
ing true make in any one's actual life? What experiences 
[may] be different from those which would obtain if 
the belief were false? How will the truth be realized? 
What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential 
terms?" The moment pragmatism asks this question, it 
sees the answer: True ideas are those tJiat we can assim- 
ilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are 
those that we cannot. That is the practical difference it 
makes to us to have*true ideas; that therefore is the 
meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known as. 



The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent 
in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is 
made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a 
process, the process namely of its verifying itself, its ver- 
ification. Its validity is the process of its validation. 1 

To agree in the widest sense with a reality can only 
mean to be guided either straight up to it or into its sur- 
roundings, or to be put into such working touch with it 
as to handle either it or something connected with it bet- 
ter than if we disagreed. Better either intellectually or 
practically. . . . Any idea that helps us to deal, whether 
practically or intellectually, with either the reality or its 
belongings, that doesn't entangle our progress in frus- 
trations, that fits, in fact, and adapts our life to the real- 
ity's whole setting, will agree sufficiently to meet the re- 
quirement. It will be true of that reality. 

'The true, to put it very briefly, is only the expedient 
in the way of our thinking, just as the right is only the 
expedient in the way of our behaving. Expedient in al- 
most any fashion, and expedient in the long run and on 
the whole, of course; for what meets expediently all the 
experience in sight won't necessarily meet all farther ex- 
periences equally satisfactorily. Experience, as we know, 
has ways of boiling over, and making us correct our pres- 
ent formulas/ 

This account of truth, following upon the similar ones 
given by Messrs. Dewey and Schiller, has occasioned the 
liveliest discussion. Few critics have defended it, most of 
them have scouted it. It seems evident that the subject 
is a hard one to understand, under its apparent simplicity; 
and evident also, I think, that the definitive settlement of 
it will mark a turning-point in the history of epistemology, 
and consequently in that of general philosophy. In order 
to make my own thought more accessible to those who 
hereafter may have to study the question, I have collected 
in the volume that follows all the work of my pen that 

Authors Preface to the Meaning of Truth 197 

bears directly on the truth-question. My first statement 
was in 1884, in the article that begins the present volume. 
The other papers follow in the order of their publication. 
Two or three appear now for the first time. 

One of the accusations which I oftenest have had to 
meet is that of making the truth of our religious beliefs 
consist in their 'feeling good' to us, and in nothing else. 
I regret to have given some excuse for this charge, by 
the unguarded language in which, in the book Pragma- 
tism, I spoke of the truth of the belief of certain philoso- 
phers in the absolute. Explaining why I do not believe 
in the absolute myself (p. 78), yet finding that it may 
secure 'moral holidays' to those who need them, and is 
true in so far forth (if to gain moral holidays be a 
good), 2 I offered this as a conciliatory olive-branch to 
my enemies. But they, as is only too common with such 
offerings, trampled the gift under foot and turned and 
rent the giver. I had counted too much on their good 
will oh for the rarity of Christian charity under the sun! 
Oh for the rarity of ordinary secular intelligence also! I 
had supposed it to be matter of common observation 
that, of two competing views of the universe which in all 
other respects are equal, but of which the first denies 
some vital human need while the second satisfies it, the 
second will be favoured by sane men for the simple reason 
that it makes the world seem more rational. To choose 
the first view under such circumstances would be an 
ascetic act, an act of philosophic self-denial of which no 
normal human being would be guilty. Using the prag- 
matic test of the meaning of concepts, I had shown the 
concept of the absolute to mean nothing but the holiday 
giver, the banisher of cosmic fear. One's objective de- 
liverance, when one says 'the absolute exists/ amounted, 
on my showing, just to this, that 'some justification of a 
feeling of security in presence of the universe,' exists, 
and that systematically to refuse to cultivate a feeling of 


security would be to do violence to a tendency in one's 
emotional Lfe which might well be respected as pro- 

Apparently my absolutist critics fail to see the work- 
ings of their own minds in any such picture, so all that I 
can do is to apologize, and take my offering back. The 
absolute is true in no way then, and least of all, by the 
verdict of the critics, in the way which I assigned! 

My treatment of 'God/ 'freedom/ and 'design' was sim- 
ilar. Reducing, by the pragmatic test, the meaning of 
each of these concepts to its positive experienceable op- 
eration, I showed them all to mean the same thing, viz., 
the presence of 'promise' in the world. 'God or no God?' 
means 'promise or no promise?* It seems to me that the 
alternative is objective enough, being a question as to 
whether the cosmos has one character or another, even 
though our own provisional answer be made on subjec- 
tive grounds. Nevertheless Christian and non-christian 
critics alike accuse me of summoning people to say 'God 
exists/ even when he doesnt exist, because forsooth in 
my philosophy the 'truth' of the saying doesn't really 
mean that he exists in any shape whatever, but only 
that to say so feels good. 

Most of the pragmatist and anti-pragmatist warfare is 
over what the word 'truth' shall be held to signify, and 
not over any of the facts embodied in truth-situations; 
for both pragmatists and anti-pragmatists believe in 
existent objects, just as they believe in our ideas of them. 
The difference is that when the pragmatists speak of 
truth, they mean exclusively something about the ideas, 
namely their workableness; whereas when anti- 
pragmatists speak of truth they seem most often to 
mean something about the objects. Since the pragmatist, 
if he agrees that an idea is 'really' true, also agrees to 
whatever it says about its object; and since most anti- 
pragmatists have already come round to agreeing that, 

Authors Preface to the Meaning of Truth 199 

if the object exists, the idea that it does so is workable; 
there would seem so little left to fight about that I might 
well be asked why instead of reprinting my share in so 
much verbal wrangling, I do not show my sense of Val- 
ues' by burning it all up. 

I understand the question and I will give my answer. 
I am interested in another doctrine in philosophy to 
which I give the name of radical empiricism, and it 
seems to me that the establishment of the pragmatist 
theory of truth is a step of first-rate importance in mak- 
ing radical empiricism prevail. Radical empiricism con- 
sists first of a postulate, next of a statement of fact, and 
finally of a generalized conclusion. 

The postulate is that the only things that shall be de- 
batable among philosophers shall be things definable in 
terms drawn from experience. [Things of an unexperi- 
enceable nature may exist ad libitum, but they form no 
part of the material for philosophic debate.] 

The statement of fact is that the relations between 
things, conjunctive as well as disjunctive, are just as 
much matters of direct particular experience, neither 
more so nor less so, than the things themselves. 

The generalized conclusion is that therefore the parts 
of experience hold together from next to next by rela- 
tions that are themselves parts of experience. The di- 
rectly apprehended universe needs, in short, no extrane- 
ous trans-empirical connective support, but possesses in 
its own right a concatenated or continuous structure. 

The great obstacle to radical empiricism in the con- 
temporary mind is the rooted rationalist belief that ex- 
perience as immediately given is all disjunction and no 
conjunction, and that to make one world out of this sep- 
arateness, a higher unifying agency must be there. In 
the prevalent idealism this agency is represented as the 
absolute all-witness which 'relates' things together by 
brewing 'categories* over them like a net. The most pe- 


culiar and unique, perhaps, of all these categories is 
supposed to be the truth-relation, which connects parts 
of reality in pairs, making of one of them a knower, and 
of the other a thing known, yet which is itself content- 
less experientially, neither describable, explicable, nor 
reduceable to lower terms, and denotable only by utter- 
ing the name 'truth/ 

The pragmatist view, on the contrary, of the truth- 
relation is that it has a definite content, and that every- 
thing in it is experienceable. Its whole nature can be 
told in positive terms. The 'workableness* which ideas 
must have, in order to be true, means particular work- 
ings, physical or intellectual, actual or possible, which 
they may set up from next to next inside of concrete ex- 
perience. Were this pragmatic contention admitted, one 
great point in the victory of radical empiricism would 
also be scored, for the relation between an object and 
the idea that truly knows it, is held by rationalists to be 
nothing of this describable sort, but to stand outside of 
all possible temporal experience; and on the relation, so 
interpreted, rationalism is wonted to make its last most 
obdurate rally. 

Now the anti-pragmatist contentions which I try to 
meet in this volume can be so easily used by rationalists 
as weapons of resistance, not only to pragmatism but to 
radical empiricism also (for if the truth-relation were 
transcendent, others might be so too), that I feel 
strongly the strategical importance of having them defi- 
nitely met and got out of the way. What our critics most 
persistently keep saying is that though workings go with 
truth, yet they do not constitute it. It is numerically 
additional to them, prior to them, explanatory of them, 
and in no wise to be explained by them, we are inces- 
santly told. The first point for our enemies to establish, 
therefore, is that something numerically additional and 

Authors Preface to the Meaning of Truth 201 

prior to the workings is involved in the truth of an idea. 
Since the object is additional, and usually prior, most 
rationalists plead it, and boldly accuse us of denying it. 
This leaves on the bystanders the impression since we 
cannot reasonably deny the existence of the object 
that our account of truth breaks down, and that our crit- 
ics have driven us from the field. Altho in various places 
in this volume I try to refute the slanderous charge that 
we deny real existence, I will say here again, for the sake 
of emphasis, that the existence of the object, whenever 
the idea asserts it 'truly/ is the only reason, in innumer- 
able cases, why the idea does work successfully, if it 
work at all; and that it seems an abuse of language, to 
say the least, to transfer the word 'truth' from the idea 
to the object's existence, when the falsehood of ideas 
that won't work is explained by that existence as well as 
the truth of those that will. 

I find this abuse prevailing among my most accom- 
plished adversaries. But once establish the proper verbal 
custom, let the word 'truth' represent a property of the 
idea, cease to make it something mysteriously connected 
with the object known, and the path opens fair and wide, 
as I believe, to the discussion of radical empiricism on 
its merits. The truth of an idea will then mean only its 
workings, or that in it which by ordinary psychological 
laws sets up those workings; it will mean neither the 
idea's object, nor anything 'saltatory' inside the idea, that 
terms drawn from experience cannot describe. 

One word more, ere I end this preface. A distinction 
is sometimes made between Dewey, Schiller and my- 
self, as if I, in supposing the object's existence, made a 
concession to popular prejudice which they, as more rad- 
ical pragmatists, refuse to make. As I myself understand 
these authors, we all three absolutely agree in admitting 
the transcendency of the object (provided it be an ex- 


perienceable object) to the subject, in the truth-relation. 
Dewey in particular has insisted almost ad nauseam that 
the whole meaning of our cognitive states and processes 
lies in the way they intervene in the control and revalu- 
ation of independent existences or facts. His account of 
knowledge is not only absurd, but meaningless, unless in- 
dependent existences be there of which our ideas take 
account, and for the transformation of which they 
work. But because he and Schiller refuse to discuss ob- 
jects and relations 'transcendent' in the sense of being al- 
together trans-experiential, their critics pounce on sen- 
tences in their writings to that effect to show that they 
deny the existence within the realm of experience of ob- 
jects external to the ideas that declare their presence 
there. 3 It seems incredible that educated and apparently 
sincere critics should so fail to catch their adversary's 
point of view. 

What misleads so many of them is possibly also the 
fact that the universes of discourse of Schiller, Dewey, and 
myself are panoramas of different extent, and that what 
the one postulates explicitly the other provisionally 
leaves only in a state of implication, while the reader 
thereupon considers it to be denied. Schiller's universe is 
the smallest, being essentially a psychological one. He 
starts with but one sort of thing, truth-claims, but is led 
ultimately to the independent objective facts which they 
assert, inasmuch as the most successfully validated of all 
claims is that such facts are there. My universe is more 
essentially epistemological. I start with two things, 
the objective facts and the claims, and indicate which 
claims, the facts being there, will work successfully as 
the latter's substitutes and which will not. I call the for- 
mer claims true. Dewey's panorama, if I understand 
this colleague, is the widest of the three, but I refrain 
from giving my own account of its complexity. Suffice it 
that he holds as firmly as I do to objects independent of 

Authors Preface to the Meaning of Truth 203 

our judgments. If I am wrong in saying this, he must cor- 
rect me. I decline in this matter to be corrected at sec- 
ond hand. 

I have not pretended in the following pages to con- 
sider all the critics of my account of truth, such as 
Messrs. Taylor, Lovejoy, Gardiner, Bakewell, Creighton, 
Hibben, Parodi, Salter, Carus, Lalande, Mentre, McTag- 
gart, G. E. Moore, Ladd and others, especially not Pro- 
fessor Schinz, who has published under the tide of Anti- 
pragmatisme an amusing sociological romance. Some of 
these critics seem to me to labor under an inability al- 
most pathetic, to understand the thesis which they seek 
to refute. I imagine that most of their difficulties have 
been answered by anticipation elsewhere in this vol- 
ume, and I am sure that my readers will thank me for 
not adding more repetition to the fearful amount that is 
already there. 

August, 1909. 


The following inquiry is (to use a distinction familiar to 
readers of Mr. Shadworth Hodgson) not an inquiry into 
the Tiow it comes/ but into the what it is* of cognition. 
What we call acts of cognition are evidently realized 
through what we call brains and their events, whether 
there be 'souls' dynamically connected with the brains or 
not. But with neither brains nor souls has this essay any 
business to transact. In it we shall simply assume that 
cognition is produced, somehow, and limit ourselves to 
asking what elements it contains, what factors it implies. 
Cognition is a function of consciousness. The first fac- 
tor it implies is therefore a state of consciousness wherein 
the cognition shall take place. Having elsewhere used 
the word 'feeling' to designate generically all states of 
consciousness considered subjectively, or without respect 
to their possible function, I shall then say that, whatever 
elements an act of cognition may imply besides, it at 
least implies the existence of a feeling. [If the reader 
share the current antipathy to the word 'feeling,' he may 
substitute for it, wherever I use it, the word 'idea/ taken 
in the old broad Locklan sense, or he may use the clumsy 
phrase 'state of consciousness/ or finally he may say 
'thought' instead.] 

The Function of Cognition 205 

Now it is to be observed that the common consent of 
mankind has agreed that some feelings are cognitive 
and some are simple facts having a subjective, or, what 
one might almost call a physical, existence, but no such 
self-transcendent function as would be implied in their 
being pieces of knowledge. Our task is again limited 
here. We are not to ask, 'How is self-transcendence pos- 
sible?' We are only to ask, 'How comes it that common 
sense has assigned a number of cases in which it is 
assumed not only to be possible but actual? And what 
are the marks used by common sense to distinguish those 
cases from the rest?' In short, our inquiry is a chapter in 
descriptive psychology/ hardly anything more. 

Condillac embarked on a quest similar to this by his 
famous hypothesis of a statue to which various feelings 
were successively imparted. Its first feeling was supposed 
to be one of fragrance. But to avoid all possible com- 
plication with the question of genesis, let us not attribute 
even to a statue the possession of our imaginary feeling. 
Let us rather suppose it attached to no matter, nor local- 
ized at any point in space, but left swinging in vacuo, 
as it were, by the direct creative -fiat of a god. And let 
us also, to escape entanglement with difficulties about 
the physical or psychical nature of its 'object/ not call it a 
feeling of fragrance or of any other determinate sort, but 
limit ourselves to assuming that it is a feeling of q. What 
is true of it under this abstract name will be no less 
true of it in any more particular shape ( such as fragrance, 
pain, hardness) which the reader may suppose. 

Now, if this feeling of q be the only creation of the god, 
it will of course form the entire universe. And if, to 
escape the cavils of that large class of persons who be- 
lieve that semper idem sentire ac non sentire are the 
same, 2 we allow the feeling to be of as short a duration 
as they like, that universe will only need to last an in- 
finitesimal part of a second. The feeling in question 


will thus be reduced to its fighting weight, and all that 
befalls it in the way of a cognitive function must be held 
to befall in the brief instant of its quickly snuffed-out life, 
a life, it will also be noticed, that has no other moment 
of consciousness either preceding or following it. 

Well now, can our little feeling, thus left alone in the 
universe, for the god and we psychological critics may 
be supposed left out of the account, can the feeling, I 
say, be said to have any sort of a cognitive function? For 
it to know, there must be something to be known. What 
is there, on the present supposition? One may reply, 'the 
feeling's content q." But does it not seem more proper to 
call this the feeling's quality than its content? Does not 
the word 'content' suggest that the feeling has already 
dirempted itself as an act from its content as an object? 
And would it be quite safe to assume so promptly that 
the quality q of a feeling is one and the same thing 
with a feeling of the quality q? The quality q, so far, is 
an entirely subjective fact which the feeling carries so 
to speak endogenously, or in its pocket. If any one pleases 
to dignify so simple a fact as this by the name of knowl- 
edge, of course nothing can prevent him. But let us keep 
closer to the path of common usage, and reserve the 
name knowledge for the cognition of 'realities,' meaning 
by realities things that exist independently of the feeling 
through which their cognition occurs. If the content of 
the feeling occur nowhere in the universe outside of the 
feeling itself, and perish with the feeling, common usage 
refuses to call it a reality, and brands it as a subjective 
feature of the feeling's constitution, or at the most as the 
feeling's dream. 

For the feeling to be cognitive in the specific sense, 
then, it must be self -transcendent; and we must prevail 
upon the god to create a reality outside of it to corre- 
spond to its intrinsic quality q. Thus only can it be 
redeemed from the condition of being a solipsism. If now 

The Function of Cognition 207 

the new-created reality resemble the feeling's quality q, 
I say that the feeling may be held by us to be cognizant 
of that reality. 

This first instalment of my thesis is sure to be attacked. 
But one word before defending it. 'Reality' has become 
our warrant for calling a feeling cognitive; but what be- 
comes our warrant for calling anything reality? The only 
reply is the faith of the present critic or inquirer. At 
every moment of his life he finds himself subject to a 
belief in some realities, even though his realities of this 
year should prove to be his illusions of the next. When- 
ever he finds that the feeling he is studying contemplates 
what he himself regards as a reality, he must of course 
admit the feeling itself to be truly cognitive. We are 
ourselves the critics here; and we shall find our burden 
much lightened by being allowed to take reality in this 
relative and provisional way. Every science must make 
some assumptions. Erkenntnisstheoretiker are but fallible 
mortals. When they study the function of cognition, they 
do it by means of the same function in themselves. And 
knowing that the fountain cannot be higher than its 
source, we should promptly confess that our results in 
this field are affected by our own liability to err. The 
most we can claim is, that what we say about cognition 
may be counted as true as what we say about anything 
else. If our hearers agree with us about what are to be 
held 'realities/ they will perhaps also agree to the reality 
of our doctrine of the way in which they are known. 
We cannot ask for more. 

Our terminology shall follow the spirit of these re- 
marks. We will deny the function of knowledge to any 
feeling whose quality or content we do not ourselves 
believe to exist outside of that feeling as well as in it. 
We may call such a feeling a dream if we like; we shall 
have to see later whether we can call it a fiction or an 


To revert now to our thesis. Some persons will im- 
mediately cry out, 'How can a reality resemble a feeling?' 
Here we find how wise we were to name the quality of 
the feeling by an algebraic letter q. We flank the whole 
difficulty of resemblance between an inner state and an 
outward reality, by leaving it free to any one to postulate 
as the reality whatever sort of thing he thinks can re- 
semble a feeling, if not an outward thing, then another 
feeling like the first one, the mere feeling q in the critic's 
mind for example. Evading thus this objection, we turn 
to another which is sure to be urged. 

It will come from those philosophers to whom 'thought/ 
in the sense of a knowledge of relations, is the all in all of 
mental life; and who hold a merely feeling conscious- 
ness to be no better one would sometimes say from their 
utterances, a good deal worse than no consciousness at 
all. Such phrases as these, for example, are common to- 
day in the mouths of those who claim to walk in the 
footprints of Kant and Hegel rather than in the ancestral 
English paths: *A perception detached from all others, 
"left out of the heap we call a mind," being out of all 
relation, has no qualities is simply nothing. We can no 
more consider it than we can see vacancy/ It is simply 
in itself fleeting, momentary, unnameable (because 
while we name it it has become another), and for the 
very same reason unknowable, the very negation of 
knowability/ 'Exclude from what we have considered 
real all qualities constituted by relation, we find that 
none are left/ 

Altho such citations as these from the writings of Pro- 
fessor Green might be multiplied almost indefinitely, 
they would hardly repay the pains of collection, so egre- 
giously false is the doctrine they teach. Our little sup- 
posed feeling, whatever it may be, from the cognitive 
point of view, whether a bit of knowledge or a dream, 
is certainly no psychical zero. It is a most positively and 

The Function of Cognition 209 

definitely qualified inner fact, with a complexion all its 
own. Of course there are many mental facts which it is 
not. It knows q, if q be a reality, with a very minimum 
of knowledge. It neither dates nor locates it. It neither 
classes nor names it. And it neither knows itself as a 
feeling, nor contrasts itself with other feelings, nor esti- 
mates its own duration or intensity. It is, in short, if there 
is no more of it than this, a most dumb and helpless and 
useless kind of thing. 

But if we must describe it by so many negations, and 
if it can say nothing about itself or about anything else, 
by what right do we deny that it is a psychical zero? 
And may not the 'relationists' be right after all? 

In the innocent looking word 'about* lies the solution 
of this riddle; and a simple enough solution it is when 
frankly looked at. A quotation from a too seldom quoted 
book, the Exploratio Philosophica of John Grote (Lon- 
don, 1865), p. 60, will form the best introduction to it. 

'Our knowledge,* writes Grote, 'may be contemplated 
in either of two ways, or, to use other words, we may 
speak in a double manner of the "object'* of knowledge. 
That is, we may either use language thus: we know a 
thing, a man, etc.; or we may use it thus: we know such 
and such things about the thing, the man, etc. Language 
in general, following its true logical instinct, distinguishes 
between these two applications of the notion of knowl- 
edge, the one being yvG)va L ,, noscere, kennen, connaitre, 
the other being tid&ai, stire, wissen, savoir. In the ori- 
gin, the former may be considered more what I have 
called phenomenal it is the notion of knowledge as ac- 
quaintance or familiarity with what is known; which no- 
tion is perhaps more akin to the phenomenal bodily com- 
munication, and is less purely intellectual than the other; 
it is the kind of knowledge which we have of a thing 
by the presentation to the senses or the representation of 
it in picture or type, a Vorstettung. The other, which is 


what we express in judgments or propositions, what is 
embodied in Begriffe or concepts without any necessary 
imaginative representation, is in its origin the more in- 
tellectual notion of knowledge. There is no reason, how- 
ever, why we should not express our knowledge, what- 
ever its kind, in either manner, provided only we do not 
confusedly express it, in the same proposition or piece of 
reasoning, in both/ 

Now obviously if our supposed feeling of q is (if 
knowledge at all) only knowledge of the mere acquaint- 
ance-type, it is milking a he-goat, as the ancients would 
have said, to try to extract from it any deliverance about 
anything under the sun, even about itself. And it is as 
unjust, after our failure, to turn upon it and call it a 
psychical nothing, as it would be, after our fruitless at- 
tack upon the billy-goat, to proclaim the non-lactiferous 
character of the whole goat-tribe. But the entire industry 
of the Hegelian school in trying to shove simple sensa- 
tion out of the pale of philosophic recognition is founded 
on this false issue. It is always the 'speechlessness' of 
sensation, its inability to make any 'statement/ 3 that is 
held to make the very notion of it meaningless, and to 
justify the student of knowledge in scouting it out of 
existence. 'Significance/ in the sense of standing as the 
sign of other mental states, is taken to be the sole func- 
tion of what mental states we have; and from the per- 
ception that our little primitive sensation has as yet no 
significance in this literal sense, it is an easy step to call 
it first meaningless, next senseless, then vacuous, and 
finally to brand it as absurd and inadmissible. But in this 
universal liquidation, this everlasting slip, slip, slip, of 
direct acquaintance into knowledge-0&ow, until at last 
nothing is left about which the knowledge can be sup- 
posed to obtain, does not all 'significance' depart from 
the situation? And when our knowledge about things has 

The Function of Cognition 211 

reached its never so complicated perfection, must there 
not needs abide alongside of it and inextricably mixed 
in with it some acquaintance with what things all this 
knowledge is about? 

Now, our supposed little feeling gives a what; and if 
other feelings should succeed which remembered the first, 
its what may stand as subject or predicate of some piece 
of knowledge-about, of some judgment, perceiving re- 
lations between it and other whats which the other feel- 
ings may know. The hitherto dumb q will then receive a 
name and be no longer speechless. But every name, as 
students of logic know, has its 'denotation'; and the de- 
notation always means some reality or content, relation- 
less ab extra or with its internal relations unanalyzed, 
like the q which our primitive sensation is supposed to 
know. No relation-expressing proposition is possible ex- 
cept on the basis of a preliminary acquaintance with 
such 'facts/ with such contents, as this. Let the q be 
fragrance, let it be toothache, or let it be a more complex 
kind of feeling, like that of the full-moon swimming in 
her blue abyss, it must first come in that simple shape, 
and be held fast in that first intention, before any knowl- 
edge about it can be attained. The knowledge about it is 
it with a context added. Undo it, and what is added 
cannot be context* 

Let us say no more then about this objection, but en- 
large our thesis, thus: If there be in the universe a q 
other than the q in the feeling, the latter may have 
acquaintance with an entity ejective to itself; an ac- 
quaintance moreover, which, as mere acquaintance, it 
would be hard to imagine susceptible either of improve- 
ment or increase, being in its way complete; and which 
would oblige us (so long as we refuse not to call ac- 
quaintance knowledge) to say not only that the feeling 
is cognitive, but that all qualities of feeling, so long as 


there is anything outside of them which they resemble, 
are feelings of qualities of existence, and perceptions of 
outward fact. 

The point of this vindication of the cognitive function 
of the first f eeling lies, it will be noticed, in the discovery 
that q does exist elsewhere than in it. In case this dis- 
covery were not made, we could not be sure the feeling 
was cognitive; and in case there were nothing outside 
to be discovered, we should have to call the feeling a 
dream. But the feeling itself cannot make a discovery. 
Its own q is the only q it grasps; and its own nature is 
not a particle altered by having the self-transcendent 
function of cognition either added to it or taken away. 
The function is accidental; synthetic, not analytic; and 
falls outside and not inside its being. 5 

A feeling feels as a gun shoots. If there be nothing to 
be felt or hit, they discharge themselves ins blaue hinein. 
If, however, something starts up opposite them, they no 
longer simply shoot or feel, they hit and know. 

But with this arises a worse objection than any yet 
made. We the critics look on and see a real q and a 
feeling of q; and because the two resemble each other, 
we say the one knows the other. But what right have we 
to say this until we know that the feeling of q means to 
stand for or represent just that same other 9? Suppose, 
instead of one q, a number of real q's in the field. If 
the gun shoots and hits, we can easily see which one 
of them it hits. But how can we distinguish which one 
the feeling knows? It knows the one it stands for. But 
which one does it stand for? It declares no intention in 
this respect. It merely resembles; it resembles all in- 
differently, and resembling, per se, is not necessarily rep- 
resenting or standing-for at all. Eggs resemble each 
other, but do not on that account represent, stand for, 
or know each other. And if you say tiiis is because nei- 

The Function of Cognition 213 

ther of them is a feeling, then imagine the world to 
consist of nothing but toothaches, which are feelings, 
feelings resembling each other exactly, would they know 
each other the better for all that? 

The case of q being a bare quality like that of tooth- 
ache-pain is quite different from that of its being a con- 
crete individual thing. There is practically no test for 
deciding whether the feeling of a bare quality means to 
represent it or not. It can do nothing to the quality be- 
yond resembling it, simply because an abstract quality is 
a thing to which nothing can be done. Being without 
context or environment or principium individuationis, a 
quiddity with no haecceity, a platonic idea, even dupli- 
cate editions of such a quality (were they possible), 
would be indiscernible, and no sign could be given, no 
result altered, whether the feeling meant to stand for 
this edition or for that, or whether it simply resembled 
the quality without meaning to stand for it at all. 

If now we grant a genuine pluralism of editions to the 
quality q, by assigning to each a context which shall 
distinguish, it from its mates, we may proceed to explain 
which edition of it the f eeling knows, by extending our 
principle of resemblance to the context too, and saying 
the feeling knows the particular q whose context it most 
exactly duplicates. But here again the theoretic doubt 
recurs: duplication and coincidence, are they knowl- 
edge? The gun shows which q it points to and hits, by 
breaking it. Until the feeling can show us which q it 
points to and knows, by some equally flagrant token, why 
are we not free to deny that it either points to or knows 
any one of the real q's at all, and to affirm that the 
word 'resemblance' exhaustively describes its relation to 
the reality? 

Well, as a matter of fact, every actual feeling does 
show us, quite as flagrantly as the gun, which q it points 
to; and practically in concrete cases the matter is de- 


cided by an element we have hitherto left out. Let us 
pass from abstractions to possible instances, and ask our 
obliging deus ex machina to frame for us a richer world. 
Let him send me, for example, a dream of the death 
of a certain man, and let him simultaneously cause the 
man to die. How would our practical instinct spontane- 
ously decide whether this were a case of cognition of the 
reality, or only a sort of marvellous coincidence of a 
resembling reality with my dream? Just such puzzling 
cases as this are what the 'society for psychical research' 
is busily collecting and trying to interpret in the most 
reasonable way. 

If my dream were the only one of the kind I evei 
had in my life, if the context of the death in the dream 
differed in many particulars from the real death's con- 
text, and if my dream led me to no action about the 
death, unquestionably we should all call it a strange 
coincidence, and naught besides. But if the death in the 
dream had a long context, agreeing point for point with 
every feature that attended the real death; if I were 
constantly having such dreams, all equally perfect, and 
if on awaking I had a habit of acting immediately as if 
they were true and so getting 'the start* of my more 
tardily instructed neighbors, we should in all probability 
have to admit that I had some mysterious kind of clair- 
voyant power, that my dreams in an inscrutable way 
meant just those realities they figured, and that the 
word 'coincidence* failed to touch the root of the matter. 
And whatever doubts any one preserved would com- 
pletely vanish, if it should appear that from the midst 
of my dream I had the power of interfering with the 
course of the reality, and making the events in it turn 
this way or that, according as I dreamed they should. 
Then at least it would be certain that my waking critics 
and my dreaming self were dealing with the same. 

And thus do men invariably decide such a question. 

The Function of Cognition 215 

The falling of the drearns practical consequences into 
the real world, and the extent of the resemblance be- 
tween the two worlds are the criteria they instinctively 
use. 6 All feeling is for the sake of action, all feeling re- 
sults in action, to-day no argument is needed to prove 
these truths. But by a most singular disposition of nature 
which we may conceive to have been different, my -feel- 
ings act upon the realities within my critics world. Un- 
less, then, my critic can prove that my feeling does not 
'point to' those realities which it acts upon, how can he- 
continue to doubt that he and I are alike cognizant of 
one and the same real world? If the action is performed in 
one world, that must be the world the feeling intends; 
if in another world, that is the world the feeling has in 
mind. If your feeling bear no fruits in my world, I call 
it utterly detached from my world; I call it a solipsism, 
and call its world a dream-world. If your toothache do 
not prompt you to act as if I had a toothache, nor even 
as if I had a separate existence; if you neither say to 
me, *I know now how you must suffer!' nor tell me of a 
remedy, I deny that your feeling, however it may re- 
semble mine, is really cognizant of mine. It gives no sign 
of being cognizant, and such a sign is absolutely necessary 
to my admission that it is. 

Before I can think you to mean my world, you must 
affect my world; before I can think you to mean much 
of it, you must affect much of it; and before I can be 
sure you mean it as I do, you must affect it just as I 
should if I were in your place. Then I, your critic, will 
gladly believe that we are thinking, not only of the 
same reality, but that we are thinking it alike, and 
thinking of much of its extent. 

Without the practical effects of our neighbor's feelings 
on our own world, we should never suspect the existence 
of our neighbor's feelings at all, and of course should 
never find ourselves playing the critic as we do in this 


article. The constitution of nature is very peculiar. In 
the world of each of us are certain objects called human 
bodies, which move about and act on all the other ob- 
jects there, and the occasions of their action are in the 
main what the occasions of our action would be, were 
they our bodies. They use words and gestures, which, 
if we used them, would have thoughts behind them, no 
mere thoughts uberhaupt, however, but strictly deter- 
minate thoughts. I think you have the notion of fire in 
general, because I see you act towards this fire in my 
room just as I act towards it, poke it and present your 
person towards it, and so forth. But that binds me to 
believe that if you feel 'fire' at all, this is the fire you 
feel. As a matter of fact, whenever we constitute our- 
selves into psychological critics, it is not by dint of dis- 
covering which reality a feeling 'resembles* that we find 
out which reality it means. We become first aware of 
which one it means, and then we suppose that to be the 
one it resembles. We see each other looking at the same 
objects, pointing to them and turning them over in va- 
rious ways, and thereupon we hope and trust that all of 
our several feelings resemble the reality and each other. 
But this is a thing of which we are never theoretically 
sure. Still, it would practically be a case of grubelsucht, 
if a ruffian were assaulting and drubbing my body, to 
spend much time in subtle speculation either as to 
whether his vision of my body resembled mine, or as 
to whether the body he really meant to insult were not 
some body in his mind's eye, altogether other from my 
own. The practical point of view brushes such meta- 
physical cobwebs away. If what he have in mind be not 
my body, why call we it a body at all? His mind is 
inferred by me as a term, to whose existence we trace 
the things that happen. The inference is quite void if 
the term, once inferred, be separated from its connection 
with the body that made me infer it, and connected with 

The Function of Cognition 217 

another that is not mine at all. No matter for the meta- 
physical puzzle of how our two minds, the ruffian's and 
mine, can mean the same body. Men who see each 
other's bodies sharing the same space, treading the same 
earth, splashing the same water, making the same air 
resonant, and pursuing the same game and eating out of 
the same dish, will never practically believe in a plural- 
ism of solipsistic worlds. 

Where, however, the actions of one mind seem to take 
no effect in the world of the other, the case is different. 
This is what happens in poetry and fiction. Every one 
knows luarihoe, for example; but so long as we stick to 
the story pure and simple without regard to the facts of 
its production, few would hesitate to admit that there 
are as many different Ivanhoes as there are different 
minds cognizant of the story. 7 The fact that all these 
Ivanhoes resemble each other does not prove the con- 
trary. But if an alteration invented by one man in his 
version were to reverberate immediately through all the 
other versions, and produce changes therein, we should 
then easily agree that all these thinkers were thinking 
the same Ivanhoe, and that, fiction or no fiction, it 
formed a little world common to them all. 

Having reached this point, we may take up our thesis 
and improve it again. Still calling the reality by the name 
of q and letting the critic's feeling vouch for it, we can 
say that any other feeling will be held cognizant of q, 
provided it both resemble q, and refer to q, as shown 
by its either modifying q directly, or modifying some 
other reality, p or r, which the critic knows to be con- 
tinuous with q. Or more shortly, thus: The feeling of q 
knows whatever reality it resembles, and either directly 
or indirectly operates on. If it resemble without operat- 
ing, it is a dream; if it operate without resembling, it is 
an error. 8 

It is to be feared that the reader may consider this 


formula rather insignificant and obvious, and hardly 
worth the labor of so many pages, especially when he 
considers that the only cases to which it applies are 
percepts, and that the whole field of symbolic or con- 
ceptual thinking seems to elude its grasp. Where the 
reality is either a material thing or act, or a state of 
the critic's consciousness, I may both mirror it in my mind 
and operate upon it in the latter case indirectly, of 
course as soon as I perceive it. But there are many 
cognitions, universally allowed to be such, which neither 
mirror nor operate on their realities. 

In the whole field of symbolic thought we are univer- 
sally held both to intend, to speak of, and to reach con- 
clusions about to know in short particular realities, 
without having in our subjective consciousness any mind- 
stuff that resembles them even in a remote degree. We 
are instructed about them by language which awakens 
no consciousness beyond its sound; and we know which 
realities they are by the faintest and most fragmentary 
glimpse of some remote context they may have and by 
no direct imagination of themselves. As minds may differ 
here, let me speak in the first person. I am sure that 
my own current thinking has words for its almost ex- 
clusive subjective material, words which are made in- 
telligible by being referred to some reality that lies be- 
yond the horizon of direct consciousness, and of which I 
am only aware as of a terminal more existing in a certain 
direction, to which the words might lead but do not 
lead yet. The subject, or topic, of the words is usually 
something towards which I mentally seem to pitch them 
in a backward way, almost as I might jerk my thumb 
over my shoulder to point at something, without looking 
round, if I were only entirely sure that it was there. The 
up-shot, or conclusion, of the words is something towards 
which I seem to incline my head forwards, as if giving 
assent to its existence, tho all my mind's eye catches 

The Function of Cognition 219 

sight of may be some tatter of an image connected with 
it, which tatter, however, if only endued with the feeling 
of familiarity and reality, makes me feel that the whole 
to which it belongs is rational and real, and fit to be let 

Here then is cognitive consciousness on a large scale, 
and yet what it knows, it hardly resembles in the least 
degree. The formula last laid down for our thesis must 
therefore be made more complete. We may now express 
it thus: A percept knows whatever reality it direcfly or 
indirectly operates on and resembles; a conceptional feel- 
ing, or thought knows 9 a reality, whenever it actually or 
potentially terminates in a percept that operates on, or 
resembles that reality, or is otherwise connected with it 
or with its context. The latter percept may be either 
sensation or sensorial idea; and when I say the thought 
must terminate in such a percept, I mean that it must 
ultimately be capable of leading up thereto, by the way 
of practical experience, if the terminal feeling be a sensa- 
tion; by the way of logical or habitual suggestion, if it be 
only an image in the mind. 

Let an illustration make this plainer. I open the first 
book I take up, and read the first sentence that meets 
my eye: 'Newton saw the handiwork of God in the heav- 
ens as plainly as Paley in the animal kingdom/ I im- 
mediately look back and try to analyze the subjective 
state in which I rapidly apprehended this sentence as I 
read it In the first place there was an obvious feeling 
that the sentence was intelligible and rational and re- 
lated to the world of realities. There was also a sense of 
agreement or harmony between "Newton/ *Paley/ and 
'God/ There was no apparent image connected with the 
words Taeavens/ or ^handiwork/ or 'God'; they were 
words merely. With 'animal kingdom* I think there was 
the faintest consciousness (it may possibly have been an 
image of the steps) of the Museum of Zoology in the 


town of Cambridge where I write. With TPaley* there 
was an equally faint consciousness of a small dark leather 
book; and with 'Newton* a pretty distinct vision of the 
right-hand lower corner of a curling periwig. This is all 
the mind-stuff I can discover in my first consciousness of 
the meaning of this sentence, and I am afraid that even 
not all of this would have been present had I come upon 
the sentence in a genuine reading of the book, and not 
picked it out for an experiment. And yet my conscious- 
ness was truly cognitive. The sentence is 'about realities* 
which my psychological critic for we must not forget 
him acknowledges to be such, even as he acknowledges 
my distinct feeling that they are realities, and my ac- 
quiescence in the general Tightness of what I read of 
them, to be true knowledge on my part. 

Now what justifies my critic in being as lenient as this? 
This singularly inadequate consciousness of mine, made 
up of symbols that neither resemble nor affect the reali- 
ties they stand for, how can he be sure it is cognizant 
of the very realities he has himself in mind? 

He is sure because in countless like cases he has seen 
such inadequate and symbolic thoughts, by developing 
themselves, terminate in percepts that practically modi- 
fied and presumably resembled his own. By 'developing' 
themselves is meant obeying their tendencies, following 
up the suggestions nascentiy present in them, working in 
the direction in which they seem to point, clearing up 
the penumbra, making distinct the halo, unravelling the 
fringe, which is part of their composition, and in the 
midst of which their more substantive kernel of sub- 
jective content seems consciously to lie. Thus I may de- 
velop my thought in the Paley direction by procuring 
the brown leather volume and bringing the passages 
about the animal kingdom before the critic's eyes. I may 
satisfy him that the words mean for me just what they 
mean for him, by showing him in concrete the very 

The Function of Cognition 221 

animals and their arrangements, of which the pages treat. 
I may get Newton's works and portraits; or if I follow 
the line of suggestion of the wig, I may smother my 
critic in seventeenth-century matters pertaining to New- 
ton's environment, to show that the word 'Newton' has 
the same locus and relations in both our minds. Finally 
I may, by act and word, persuade him that what I mean 
by God and the heavens and the analogy of the handi- 
works, is just what he means also. 

My demonstration in the last resort is to his senses. 
My thought makes me act on his senses much as he 
might himself act on them, were he pursuing the con- 
sequences of a perception of his own. Practically then 
my thought terminates in his realities. He willingly sup- 
poses it, therefore, to be of them, and inwardly to re- 
semble what his own thought would be, were it of the 
same symbolic sort as mine. And the pivot and fulcrum 
and support of his mental persuasion, is the sensible 
operation which my thought leads me, or may lead, to 
effect the bringing of Paley's book, of Newton's portrait, 
etc., before his very eyes. 

In the last analysis, then, we believe that we all know 
and think about and talk about the same world, because 
toe believe our PERCEPTS are possessed by us in common. 
And we believe this because the percepts of each one of 
us seem to be changed in consequence of changes in the 
percepts of some one else. What I am for you is in the 
first instance a percept of your own. Unexpectedly, how- 
ever, I open and show you a book, uttering certain 
sounds the while. These acts are also your percepts, but 
they so resemble acts of yours with feelings prompting 
them, that you cannot doubt I have the feelings too, or 
that the book is one book felt in both our worlds. That 
it is felt in the same way, that my feelings of it resemble 
yours, is something of which we never can be sure, but 
which we assume as the simplest hypothesis that meets 


the case. As a matter of fact, we never are sure of it, 
and, as erkenntnisstheoretiker, we can only say that of 
feelings that should not resemble each other, both could 
not know the same thing at the same time in the same 
way. 10 If each holds to its own percept as the reality, it 
is bound to say of the other percept, that, though it 
may intend that reality, and prove this by working 
change upon it, yet, if it do not resemble it, it is all 
false and wrong. 11 

If this be so of percepts, how much more so of higher 
modes of thought! Even in the sphere of sensation in- 
dividuals are probably different enough. Comparative 
study of the simplest conceptual elements seems to show 
a wider divergence still. And when it comes to general 
theories and emotional attitudes towards life, it is indeed 
time to say with Thackeray, 'My friend, two different 
universes walk about under your hat and under mine/ 

What can save us at all and prevent us from flying 
asunder into a chaos of mutually repellent solipsisms? 
Through what can our several minds commune? Through 
nothing but the mutual resemblance of those of our per- 
ceptual feelings which have this power of modifying 
one another, which are mere dumb knowledges-of- 
acquaintance, and which must also resemble their real- 
ities or not know them aright at all. In such pieces of 
knowledge-of-acquaintance all our knowledge-about 
must end, and carry a sense of this possible termination 
as part of its content. These percepts, these termini, these 
sensible things, these mere matters of acquaintance, are 
the only realities we ever directly know, and the whole 
history of our thought is the history of our substitution of 
one of them for another, and the reduction of the sub- 
stitute to the status of a conceptual sign. Contemned 
though they be by some thinkers, these sensations are 
the mother-earth, the achorage, the stable rock, the first 
and last limits, the terminus a quo and the terminus ad 

The Function of Cognition 223 

quern of the mind. To find such sensational termini 
should be our aim with all our higher thought. They end 
discussion; they destroy the false conceit of knowledge; 
and without them we are all at sea with each other's 
meaning. If two men act alike on a percept, they believe 
themselves to feel alike about it; if not, they may suspect 
they know it in differing ways. We can never be sure we 
understand each other till we are able to bring the mat- 
ter to this test. 12 This is why metaphysical discussions 
are so much like fighting with the air; they have no prac- 
tical issue of a sensational kind. 'Scientific' theories, on 
the other hand, always terminate in definite percepts. 
You can deduce a possible sensation from your theory 
and, taking me into your laboratory, prove that your the- 
ory is true of my world by giving me the sensation then 
and there. Beautiful is the flight of conceptual reason 
through the upper air of truth. No wonder philosophers 
are dazzled by it still, and no wonder they look with some 
disdain at the low earth of feeling from which the goc? - 
dess launched herself aloft. But woe to her if she return 
not home to its acquaintance; Nirgends haften dann die 
unsichern Sohlen every crazy wind will take her, and, 
like a fire-balloon at night, she will go out among the 

NOTE. The reader will easily see how much of the account of 
the truth-function developed later in Pragmatism was already ex- 
plicit in this earlier article, and how much came to be defined later. 
In this earher article we find distinctly asserted: 

1. The reality, external to the true idea; 

2. The critic, reader, or epistemologist, with his own belief, as 
warrant for this reality's existence; 

3. The experienceable environment, as the vehicle or medium 
connecting knower with known, and yielding the cognitive relation; 

4. The notion of pointing, through this medium, to the reality, as 
one condition of our being said to know it; 

5. That of resembling it, and eventually affecting it, as determin- 
ing the pointing to it and not to something else. 

6. The elimination of the 'epistemological gulf/ so that the 
whole truth-relation falls inside of the continuities of concrete ex- 


perience, and is constituted of particular processes, varying with 
every object and subject, and susceptible of being described in de- 

The defects in this earlier account are: 

1. The possibly undue prominence given to resembling, which 
altho a fundamental function in knowing truly, is so often dispensed 

2. The undue emphasis laid upon operating on the object itself, 
which in many cases is indeed decisive of that being what we refer 
to, but which is often lacking, or replaced by operations on other 
things related to the object. 

3. The imperfect development of the generalized notion of the 
workability of the feeling or idea as equivalent to that satisfactory 
adaptation to the particular reality, which consfatues the truth of the 
idea. It is this more generalized notion, as covering all such specifi- 
cations as pointing, fitting, operating or resembling, that distin- 
guishes the developed view of Dewey, Schiller, and myself. 

4. The treatment, on page 39, of percepts as the only realm of 
reality. I now treat concepts as a co-ordinate realm. 

The next paper represents a somewhat broader grasp of the topic 
on the writer's part. 


There are two ways of knowing things, knowing them 
immediately or intuitively, and knowing them concep- 
tually or representatively. Altho such things as the white 
paper before our eyes can be known intuitively, most of 
the things we know, the tigers now in India, for example, 
or the scholastic system of philosophy, are known only 
representatively or symbolically. 

Suppose, to fix our ideas, that we take first a case of 
conceptual knowledge; and let it be our knowledge of the 
tigers in India, as we sit here. Exactly what do we mean 
by saying that we here know the tigers? What is the pre- 
cise fact that the cognition so confidently claimed is 
known-as, to use Shadworth Hodgson's inelegant but val- 
uable form of words? 

Most men would answer that what we mean by know- 
ing the tigers is having them, however absent in body, 
become in some way present to our thought; or that our 
knowledge of them is known as presence of our thought 
to them. A great mystery is usually made of this peculiar 
presence in absence; and the scholastic philosophy, 
which is only common sense grown pedantic, would ex- 
plain it as a peculiar kind of existence, called intentional 


inexistence, of the tigers in our mind. At the very least, 
people would say that what we mean by knowing the ti- 
gers is mentally pointing towards them as we sit here. 

But now what do we mean by pointing, in such a case 
as this? What is the pointing known-as, here? 

To this question I shall have to give a very prosaic an- 
swer one that traverses the prepossessions not only of 
common sense and scholasticism, but also those of nearly 
all the epistemological writers whom I have ever read. 
The answer, made brief, is this: The pointing of our 
thought to the tigers is known simply and solely as a pro- 
cession of mental associates and motor consequences 
that follow on the thought, and that would lead har- 
moniously, if followed out, into some ideal or real con- 
text, or even into the immediate presence, of the tigers. 
It is known as our rejection of a jaguar, if that beast were 
shown us as a tiger; as our assent to a genuine tiger if so 
shown. It is known as our ability to utter all sorts of prop- 
ositions which don't contradict other propositions that are 
true of the real tigers. It is even known, if we take the 
tigers very seriously, as actions of ours which may ter- 
minate in directly intuited tigers, as they would if we 
took a voyage to India for the purpose of tiger-hunting 
and brought back a lot of skins of the striped rascals 
which we had laid low. In all this there is no self- 
transcendency in our mental images taken by themselves. 
They are one phenomenal fact; the tigers are another; 
and their pointing to the tigers is a perfectly common- 
place intra-experiential relation, if you once grant a con- 
necting world to be there. In short, the ideas and the 
tigers are in themselves as loose and separate, to use 
Hume's language, as any two things can be; and pointing 
means here an operation as external and adventitious as 
any that nature yields. 2 

I hope you may agree with me now that in representa- 
tive knowledge there is no special inner mystery, but 

The Tigers of India 227 

only an outer chain of physical or mental intermediaries 
connecting thought and thing. To know an object is here 
to lead to it through a context which the world supplies. 
All this was most instructively set forth by our colleague 
D. S. Miller at our meeting in New York last Christmas, 
and for re-confirming my sometime wavering opinion, I 
owe him this acknowledgment. 3 

Let us next pass on to the case of immediate or intui- 
tive acquaintance with an object, and let the object be 
the white paper before our eyes. The thought-stuff and 
the thing-stuff are here indistinguishably the same in na- 
ture, as we saw a moment since, and there is no context 
of intermediaries or associates to stand between and sep- 
arate the thought and thing. There is no 'presence in ab- 
sence* here, and no 'pointing,* but rather an allround 
embracing of the paper by the thought; and it is clear 
that the knowing cannot now be explained exactly as it 
was when the tigers were its object. Dotted all through 
our experience are states of immediate acquaintance just 
like this. Somewhere our belief always does rest on ul- 
timate data like the whiteness, smoothness, or squareness 
of this paper. Whether such qualities be truly ultimate 
aspects of being, or only provisional suppositions of ours, 
held-to till we get better informed, is quite immaterial 
for our present inquiry. So long as it is believed in, we 
see our object face to face. What now do we mean by 
Tcnowing' such a sort of object as this? For this is also 
the way in which we should know the tiger if our con- 
ceptual idea of him were to terminate by having led us 
to his lair? 

This address must not become too long, so I must give 
my answer in the fewest words. And let me first say this: 
So far as the white paper or other ultimate datum of our 
experience is considered to enter also into some one else's 
experience, and we, in knowing it, are held to know it 
there as well as here; so far, again, as it is considered to 


be a mere mask for hidden molecules that other now im- 
possible experiences of our own might some day lay bare 
to view; so far it is a case of tigers in India again the 
things known being absent experiences, the knowing can 
only consist in passing smoothly towards them through 
the intermediary context that the world supplies. But if 
our own private vision of the paper be considered in ab- 
straction from every other event, as if it constituted by 
itself the universe ( and it might perfectly well do so, for 
aught we can understand to the contrary), then the 
paper seen and the seeing of it are only two names for 
one indivisible fact which, properly named, is the datum, 
the phenomenon, or the experience. The paper is in the 
mind and the mind is around the paper, because paper 
and mind are only two names that are given later to the 
one experience, when, taken in a larger world of which 
it forms a part, its connections are traced in different di- 
rections. 4 To know immediately, then, or intuitively, is for 
mental content and object to be identical This is a very 
different definition from that which we gave of represent- 
ative knowledge; but neither definition involves those 
mysterious notions of self-transcendency and presence in 
absence which are such essential parts of the ideas of 
knowledge, both of philosophers and of common men. 5 


Receiving from the Editor of Mind an advance proof of 
Mr. Bradley's article on Truth and Practice/ I under- 
stand this as a hint to me to join in the controversy over 
Tragmatism' which seems to have seriously begun. As my 
name has been coupled with the movement, I deem it 
wise to take the hint, the more so as in some quarters 
greater credit has been given me than I deserve, and 
probably undeserved discredit in other quarters falls also 
to my lot. 

First, as to the word 'pragmatism.' I myself have only 
used the term to indicate a method of carrying on ab- 
stract discussion. The serious meaning of a concept, says 
Mr. Peirce, lies in the concrete difference to some one 
which its being true will make. Strive to bring all de- 
bated conceptions to that 'pragmatic' test, and you will 
escape vain wrangling: if it can make no practical dif- 
ference which of two statements be true, then they are 
really one statement in two verbal forms; if it can make 
no practical difference whether a given statement be true 
or false, then the statement has no real meaning. In nei- 
ther case is there anything fit to quarrel about: we may 
save our breath, and pass to more important things. 



All that the pragmatic method implies, then, is that 
truths should have practical 2 consequences. In England 
the word has been used more broadly still, to cover the 
notion that the truth of any statement consists in the 
consequences, and particularly in their being good con- 
sequences. Here we get beyond affairs of method al- 
together; and since my pragmatism and this wider 
pragmatism are so different, and botib are important 
enough to have different names, I think that Mr. Schil- 
ler's proposal to call the wider pragmatism by the name 
of ^humanism* is excellent and ought to be adopted. The 
narrower pragmatism may still be spoken of as the 'prag- 
matic method/ 

I have read in the past six months many hostile reviews 
of Schiller's and Dewey's publications; but with the ex- 
ception of Mr. Bradley's elaborate indictment, they are 
out of reach where I write, and I have largely forgotten 
them. I think that a free discussion of the subject on my 
part would in any case be more useful than a polemic 
attempt at rebutting these criticisms in detail. Mr. Brad- 
ley in particular can be taken care of by Mr. Schiller. He 
repeatedly confesses himself unable to comprehend 
Schiller's views, he evidently has not sought to do so sym- 
pathetically, and I deeply regret to say that his laborious 
article throws, for my mind, absolutely no useful light 
upon the subject. It seems to me on the whole an igno- 
ratio elenchi, and I feel free to disregard it altogether. 

The subject is unquestionably difficult. Messrs. Dew- 
ey's and Schiller's thought is eminently an induction, a 
generalization working itself free from all sorts of entan- 
gling particulars. If true, it involves much restatement of 
traditional notions. This is a kind of intellectual product 
that never attains a classic form of expression when first 
promulgated. The critic ought therefore not to be too 
sharp and logic-chopping in his dealings with it, but 
should weigh it as a whole, and especially weigh it 

Humanism and Truth 231 

against its possible alternatives. One should also try to ap- 
ply it first to one instance, and then to ano ther to see how 
it will work. It seems to me that it is emphatically not a 
case for instant execution, by conviction of intrinsic ab- 
surdity or of self-contradiction, or by caricature of what 
it would look like if reduced to skeleton shape. Human- 
ism is in fact much more like one of those secular changes 
that come upon public opinion overnight, as it were, 
borne upon tides 'too deep for sound or foam,' that sur- 
vive all the crudities and extravagances of their advo- 
cates, that you can pin to no one absolutely essential 
statement, nor kill by any one decisive stab. 

Such have been the changes from aristocracy to de- 
mocracy, from classic to romantic taste, from theistic 
to pantheistic feeling, from static to evolutionary ways of 
understanding life changes of which we all have been 
spectators. Scholasticism still opposes to such changes the 
method of confutation by single decisive reasons, show- 
ing that the new view involves self-contradiction, or tra- 
verses some fundamental principle. This is like stopping a 
river by planting a stick in the middle of its bed. Round 
your obstacle flows the water and 'gets there all the same/ 
In reading some of our opponents, I am not a little re- 
minded of those catholic writers who refute darwinism 
by telling us that higher species cannot come from lower 
because minus nequit gignere plus, or that the notion of 
transformation is absurd, for it implies that species tend 
to their own destruction, and that would violate the prin- 
ciple that every reality tends to persevere in its own 
shape. The point of view is too myopic, too tight and 
close to take in the inductive argument. Wide generaliza- 
tions in science always meet with these summary refuta- 
tions in their early days; but they outlive them, and the 
refutations then sound oddly antiquated and scholastic. 
I cannot help suspecting that the humanistic theory is 
going through this kind of would-be refutation at present. 


The one condition of understanding humanism is to be- 
come inductive-minded oneself, to drop rigorous defini- 
tions, and follow lines of least resistance 'on the whole.' 
In other words/ an opponent might say, 'resolve your 
intellect into a kind of slush/ 'Even so/ I make reply, 
'if you will consent to use no politer word/ For humanism, 
conceiving the more 'true' as the more 'satisfactory' 
(Deweys term), has sincerely to renounce rectilinear 
arguments and ancient ideals of rigor and finality. It is 
in just this temper of renunciation, so different from that 
of pyrrhonistic scepticism, that the spirit of humanism es- 
sentially consists. Satisfactoriness has to be measured by a 
multitude of standards, of which some, for aught we 
know, may fail in any given case; and what is more sat- 
isfactory than any alternative in sight, may to the end be 
a sum of pluses and minuses, concerning which we can 
only trust that by ulterior corrections and improvements 
a maximum of the one and a minimum of the other may 
some day be approached. It means a real change of 
heart, a break with absolutistic hopes, when one takes up 
this inductive view of the conditions of belief. 

As I understand the pragmatist way of seeing things, 
it owes its being to the break-down which the last fifty 
years have brought about in the older notions of scientific 
truth. 'God geometrizes/ it used to be said; and it was 
believed that Euclid's elements literally reproduced 
his geometrizing. There is an eternal and unchangeable 
'reason*; and its voice was supposed to reverberate in Bar- 
bara and Celarent. So also of the laws of nature/ physi- 
cal and chemical, so of natural history classifications all 
were supposed to be exact and exclusive duplicates of 
pre-human archetypes buried in the structure of things, 
to which the spark of divinity hidden in our intellect en- 
ables us to penetrate. The anatomy of the world is logical, 
and its logic is that of a university professor, it was 
thought. Up to about 1850 almost every one believed that 

Humanism and Truth 233 

sciences expressed truths that were exact copies of a 
definite code of non-human realities. But the enormously 
rapid multiplication of theories in these latter days has 
well-nigh upset the notion of any one of them being a 
more literally objective kind of thing than another. There 
are so many geometries, so many logics, so many physical 
and chemical hypotheses, so many classifications, each 
one of them good for so much and yet not good for ev- 
erything, that the notion that even the truest formula 
may be a human device and not a literal transcript has 
dawned upon us. We hear scientific laws now treated as 
so much 'conceptual shorthand/ true so far as they are 
useful but no farther. Our mind has become tolerant of 
symbol instead of reproduction, of approximation instead 
of exactness, of plasticity instead of rigor. 'Energetics,' 
measuring the bare face of sensible phenomena so as to 
describe in a single formula all their changes of level/ is 
the last word of his scientific humanism, which indeed 
leaves queries enough outstanding as to the reason for so 
curious a congruence between the world and the mind, 
but which at any rate makes our whole notion of scien- 
tific truth more flexible and genial than it used to be. 

It is to be doubted whether any theorizer to-day, ei- 
ther in mathematics, logic, physics or biology, conceives 
himself to be literally re-editing processes of nature or 
thoughts of God. The main forms of our thinking, the sep- 
aration of subjects from predicates, the negative, hypo- 
thetic and disjunctive judgments, are purely human 
habits. The ether, as Lord Salisbury said, is only a noun 
for the verb to undulate; and many of our theological 
ideas are admitted, even by those who call them 'true/ to 
be humanistic in like degree. 

I fancy that these changes in the current notions of 
truth are what originally gave the impulse to Messrs. 
Dewey's and Schiller's views. The suspicion is in the air 
nowadays that the superiority of one of our formulas to 


another may not consist so much in its literal 'objectivity/ 
as in subjective qualities like its usefulness, its 'elegance* 
or its congruity with our residual beliefs. Yielding to 
these suspicions, and generalizing, we fall into something 
like the humanistic state of mind. Truth we conceive to 
mean everywhere, not duplication, but addition; not the 
constructing of inner copies of already complete realities, 
but rather the collaborating with realities so as to bring 
about a clearer result. Obviously this state of mind is at 
first full of vagueness and ambiguity. 'Collaborating' is 
a vague term; it must at any rate cover conceptions and 
logical arrangements. 'Clearer' is vaguer still. Truth must 
bring clear thoughts, as well as clear the way to action. 
'Reality' is the vaguest term of all. The only way to test 
such a programme at all is to apply it to the various types 
of truth, in the hope of reaching an account that shall be 
more precise. Any hypothesis that forces such a review 
upon one has one great merit, even if in the end it prove 
invalid: it gets us better acquainted with the total sub- 
ject. To give the theory plenty of 'rope' and see if it hangs 
itself eventually is better tactics than to choke it off at 
the outset by abstract accusations of self-contradiction. I 
think therefore that a decided effort at sympathetic men- 
tal play with humanism is the provisional attitude to be 
recommended to the reader. 

When I find myself playing sympathetically with hu- 
manism, something like what follows is what I end by 
conceiving it to mean. 

Experience is a process that continually gives us new 
material to digest. We handle this intellectually by the 
mass of beliefs of which we find ourselves already pos- 
sessed, assimilating, rejecting, or rearranging in different 
degrees. Some of the apperceiving ideas are recent ac- 
quisitions of our own, but most of them are common- 
sense traditions of the race. There is probably not a 

Humanism and Truth 235 

common-sense tradition, of all those which we now live 
by, that was not in the first instance a genuine discovery, 
an inductive generalization like those more recent ones 
of the atom, of inertia, of energy, of reflex action, or of 
fitness to survive. The notions of one Time and of one 
Space as single continuous receptacles; the distinction 
between thoughts and things, matter and mind; between 
permanent subjects and changing attributes; the concep- 
tion of classes with sub-classes within them; the separa- 
tion of fortuitous from regularly caused connections; 
surely all these were once definite conquests made at his- 
toric dates by our ancestors in their attempts to get the 
chaos of their crude individual experiences into a more 
shareable and manageable shape. They proved of such 
sovereign use as denkmittel that they are now a part of 
the very structure of our mind. We cannot play fast and 
loose with them. No experience can upset them. On the 
contrary, they apperceive every experience and assign it 
to its place. 

To what effect? That we may the better forsee the 
course of our experiences, communicate with one an- 
other, and steer our lives by rule. Also that we may have 
a cleaner, clearer, more inclusive mental view. 

The greatest common-sense achievement, after the dis- 
covery of one Time and one Space, is probably the con- 
cept of permanently existing things. When a rattle first 
drops out of the hand of a baby, he does not look to see 
where it has gone. Non-perception he accepts as annihila- 
tion until he finds a better belief. That our perceptions 
mean beings, rattles that are there whether we hold them 
in our hands or not, becomes an interpretation so lumi- 
nous of what happens to us that, once employed, it never 
gets forgotten. It applies with equal felicity to things and 
persons, to the objective and to the ejective realm. How- 
ever a Berkeley, a Mill, or a Cornelius may criticise it, it 
works; and in practical life we never think of 'going back' 


upon it, or reading our incoming experiences in any other 
terms. We may, indeed, speculatively imagine a state of 
'pure* experience before the hypothesis of permanent ob- 
jects behind its flux had been framed; and we can play 
with the idea that some primeval genius might have 
struck into a different hypothesis. But we cannot posi- 
tively imagine today what the different hypothesis could 
have been, for the category of trans-perceptual reality is 
now one of the foundations of our life. Our thoughts must 
still employ it if they are to possess reasonableness and 

This notion of a first in the shape of a most chaotic pure 
experience which sets us questions, of a second in the 
way of fundamental categories, long ago wrought into the 
structure of our consciousness and practically irreversi- 
ble, which define the general frame within which an- 
swers must fall, and of a third which gives the detail of 
the answers in the shapes most congruous with all our 
present needs, is, as I take it, the essence of the human- 
istic conception. It represents experience in its pristine 
purity to be now so enveloped in predicates historically 
worked out that we can think of it as little more than an 
Other, of a That, which the mind, in Mr. Bradley's phrase, 
'encounters,* and to whose stimulating presence we re- 
spond by ways of thinking which we call 'true' in propor- 
tion as they facilitate our mental or physical activities 
and bring us outer power and inner peace. But whether 
the Other, the universal That, has itself any definite in- 
ner structure, or whether, if it have any, the structure re- 
sembles any of our predicated whats, this is a question 
which humanism leaves untouched. For us, at any rate, 
it insists, reality is an accumulation of our own intellec- 
tual inventions, and the struggle for 'truth' in our progres- 
sive dealings with it is always a struggle to work in new 
nouns and adjectives while altering as little as possible 
the old. 

Humanism and Truth 237 

It is hard to see why either Mr. Bradley's own logic or 
his metaphysics should oblige him to quarrel with this 
conception. He might consistently adopt it verbatim et 
literatim, if he would, and simply throw his peculiar ab- 
solute round it, following in this the good example of 
Professor Royce. Bergson in France, and his disciples, Wil- 
bois the physicist and Leroy, are thoroughgoing human- 
ists in the sense defined. Professor Milhaud also appears 
to be one; and the great Poincare misses it by only the 
breadth of a hair. In Germany the name of Simmel offers 
itself as that of a humanist of the most radical sort. Mach 
and his school, and Hertz and Ostwald must be classed 
as humanists. The view is in the atmosphere and must be 
patiently discussed. 

The best way to discuss it would be to see what the al- 
ternative might be. What is it indeed? Its critics make no 
explicit statement, Professor Royce being the only one so 
far who has formulated anything definite. The first service 
of humanism to philosophy accordingly seems to be that 
it will probably oblige those who dislike it to search their 
own hearts and heads. It will force analysis to the front 
and make it the order of the day. At present the lazy 
tradition that truth is adsequatio intellectds et rei seems 
all there is to contradict it with. Mr. Bradley's only sug- 
gestion is that true thought 'must correspond to a deter- 
minate being which it cannot be said to make,' and 
obviously that sheds no new light. What is the meaning 
of the word to 'correspond?* Where is the iDeing?' What 
sort of things are 'determinations,' and what is meant in 
this particular case by 'not to make?' 

Humanism proceeds immediately to refine upon the 
looseness of these epithets. We correspond in some way 
with anything with which we enter into any relations at 
all. If it be a thing, we may produce an exact copy of it, 
or we may simply feel it as an existent in a certain place. 


If it be a demand, we may obey it without knowing any- 
thing more about it than its push. If it be a proposition, 
we may agree by not contradicting it, by letting it pass. 
If it be a relation between things, we may act on the first 
thing so as to bring ourselves out where the second will 
be. If it be something inaccessible, we may substitute a 
hypothetical object for it, which, having the same con- 
sequences, will cipher out for us real results. In a general 
way we may simply add our thought to it; and if it suffers 
the addition, and the whole situation harmoniously pro- 
longs and enriches itself, the thought will pass for true. 

As for the whereabouts of the beings thus corre- 
sponded to, although they may be outside of the present 
thought as well as in it, humanism sees no ground for say- 
ing they are outside of finite experience itself. Pragmati- 
cally, their reality means that we submit to them, take 
account of them, whether we like to or not, but this we 
must perpetually do with experiences other than our own. 
The whole system of what the present experience must 
correspond to 'adequately' may be continuous with the 
present experience itself. Reality, so taken as experience 
other than the present, might be either the legacy of past 
experience or the content of experience to come. Its de- 
terminations for us are in any case the adjectives which 
our acts of judging fit to it, and those are essentially hu- 
manistic things. 

To say that our thought does not 'make' this reality 
means pragmatically that if our own particular thought 
were annihilated the reality would still be there in some 
shape, though possibly it might be a shape that would 
lack something that our thought supplies. That reality is 
'independent' means that there is something in every ex- 
perience that escapes our arbitrary control. If it be a sen- 
sible experience it coerces our attention; if a sequence, 
we cannot invert it; if we compare two terms we can 
come to only one result. There is a push, an urgency, 

Humanism and Truth 239 

within our very experience, against which we are on the 
whole powerless, and which drives us in a direction that 
is the destiny of our belief. That this drift of experience 
itself is in the last resort due to something independent 
of all possible experience may or may not be true. There 
may or may not be an extra-experiential 'ding an sich' 
that keeps the ball rolling, or an 'absolute' that lies eter- 
nally behind all the successive determinations which hu- 
man thought has made. But within our experience itself, 
at any rate, humanism says, some determinations show 
themselves as being independent of others; some ques- 
tions, if we ever ask them, can only be answered in one 
way; some beings, if we ever suppose them, must be 
supposed to have existed previously to the supposing; 
some relations, if they exist ever, must exist as long as 
their terms exist. 

Truth thus means, according to humanism, the relation 
of less fixed parts of experience (predicates) to other 
relatively more fixed parts (subjects); and we are not re- 
quired to seek it in a relation of experience as such to any- 
thing beyond itself. We can stay at home, for our behav- 
ior as experients is hemmed in on every side. The forces 
both of advance and of resistance are exerted by our own 
objects, and the notion of truth as something opposed to 
waywardness or license inevitably grows up solipsistically 
inside of every human life. 

So obvious is all this that a common charge against the 
humanistic authors 'makes me tired.' *How can a dew- 
eyite discriminate sincerity from bluff?' was a ques- 
tion asked at a philosophic meeting where I reported on 
Dewey's Studies. *How can the mere 3 pragmatist feel any 
duty to think truly?' is the objection urged by Professor 
Royce. Mr. Bradley in turn says that if a humanist un- 
derstands his own doctrine, lie must hold any idea, how- 
ever mad, to be the truth, if any one will have it so.' And 


Professor Taylor describes pragmatism as believing any- 
thing one pleases and calling it truth. 

Such a shallow sense of the conditions under which 
men's thinking actually goes on seems to me most sur- 
prising. These critics appear to suppose that, if left to 
itself, the rudderless raft of our experience must be ready 
to drift anywhere or nowhere. Even tho there were 
compasses on board, they seem to say, there would be 
no pole for them to point to. There must be absolute 
sailing-directions, they insist, decreed from outside, and 
an independent chart of the voyage added to the 'mere' 
voyage itself, if we are ever to make a port. But is it not 
obvious that even tho there be such absolute sailing- 
directions in the shape of pre-human standards of truth 
that we ought to follow, the only guarantee that we shall 
in fact follow them must He in our human equipment. 
The 'ought' would be a brutum fulmen unless there 
were a felt grain inside of our experience that conspired. 
As a matter of fact the devoutest believers in absolute 
standards must admit that men fail to obey them. Way- 
wardness is here, in spite of the eternal prohibitions, and 
the existence of any amount of reality ante rem is no 
warrant against unlimited error in rebus being incurred. 
The only real guarantee we have against licentious 
thinking is the circumpressure of experience itself, 
which gets us sick of concrete errors, whether there be a 
trans-empirical reality or not. How does the partisan of 
absolute reality know what this orders him to think? He 
cannot get direct sight of the absolute; and he has no 
means of guessing what it wants of him except by follow- 
ing the humanistic clues. The only truth that he himself 
will ever practically accept will be that to which his finite 
experiences lead Mm of themselves. The state of mind 
which shudders at the idea of a lot of experiences left to 
themselves, and that augurs protection from the sheer 
name of an absolute, as if, however inoperative, that 

Humanism and Truth 241 

might still stand for a sort of ghostly security, is like the 
mood of those good people who, whenever they hear of 
a social tendency that is damnable, begin to redden and 
to puff, and say Tarliament or Congress ought to make a 
law against it/ as if an impotent decree would give relief. 

All the sanctions of a law of truth lie in the very tex- 
ture of experience. Absolute or no absolute, the concrete 
truth for us will always be that way of thinking in which 
our various experiences most profitably combine. 

And yet, the opponent obstinately urges, your human- 
ist will always have a greater liberty to play fast and 
loose with truth than will your believer in an independ- 
ent realm of reality that makes the standard rigid. If by 
this latter believer he means a man who pretends to 
know the standard and who fulminates it, the humanist 
will doubtless prove more flexible; but no more flexible 
than the absolutist himself if the latter follows ( as for- 
tunately our present-day absolutists do follow) empirical 
methods of inquiry in concrete affairs. To consider hy- 
potheses is surely always better than to dogmatize ins 
blaue hinein. 

Nevertheless this probable flexibility of temper in him 
has been used to convict the humanist of sin. Believing as 
he does, that truth lies in rebus, and is at every moment 
our own line of most propitious reaction, he stands for- 
ever debarred, as I have heard a learned colleague say, 
from trying to convert opponents, for does not their 
view, being their most propitious momentary reaction, 
already fill the bill? Only the believer in the ante-rem 
brand of truth can on this theory seek to make converts 
without self-stultification. But can there be self- 
stultification in urging any account whatever of truth? 
Can the definition ever contradict the deed? Truth is 
what I feel like saying' suppose that to be the defini- 
tion. Well, I feel like saying that, and I want you to feel 
like saying it, and shall continue to say it until I get you 


to agree/ Where is there any contradiction? Whatever 
truth may be said to be, that is the kind of truth which 
the saying can be held to carry. The temper which a 
saying may comport is an extra-logical matter. It may 
indeed be hotter in some individual absolutist than in a 
humanist, but it need not be so in another. And the 
humanist, for his part, is perfectly consistent in com- 
passing sea and land to make one proselyte, if his nature 
be enthusiastic enough. 

'But how can you be enthusiastic over any view of 
things which you know to have been partly made by 
yourself, and which is liable to alter during the next 
minute? How is any heroic devotion to the ideal of truth 
possible under such paltry conditions?* 

This is just another of those objections by which the 
anti-humanists show their own comparatively slack hold 
on the realities of the situation. If they would only follow 
the pragmatic method and ask: *What is truth known-as? 
What does its existence stand for in the way of concrete 
goods?' they would see that the name of it is the 
iribegriff of almost everything that is valuable in our 
lives. The true is the opposite of whatever is instable, of 
whatever is practically disappointing, of whatever is use- 
less, of whatever is lying and unreliable, of whatever is 
unverifiable and unsupported, of whatever is inconsist- 
ent and contradictory, of whatever is artificial and eccen- 
tric, of whatever is unreal in the sense of being of no 
practical account. Here are pragmatic reasons with a 
vengeance why we should turn to truth truth saves us 
from a world of that complexion. What wonder that its 
very name awakens loyal feeling! In particular what 
wonder that all little provisional fool's paradises of belief 
should appear contemptible in comparison with its 
bare pursuit! When absolutists reject humanism because 
they feel it to be untrue, that means that the whole habit 
of their mental needs is wedded already to a different 

Humanism and Truth 243 

view of reality, in comparison with which the humanistic 
world seems but the whim of a few irresponsible youths. 
Their own subjective apperceiving mass is what speaks 
here in the name of the eternal natures and bids them 
reject our humanism as they apprehend it. Just so with 
us humanists, when we condemn all noble, clean-cut, 
fixed, eternal, rational, temple-like systems of philoso- 
phy. These contradict the dramatic temperament of na- 
ture, as our dealings with nature and our habits of 
thinking have so far brought us to conceive it. They seem 
oddly personal and artificial, even when not bureau- 
cratic and professional in an absurd degree. We turn 
from them to the great unpent and unstayed wilderness 
of truth as we feel it to be constituted, with as good a 
conscience as rationalists are moved by when they turn 
from our wilderness into their neater and cleaner intel- 
lectual abodes. 4 

This is surely enough to show that the humanist does 
not ignore the character of objectivity and independence 
in truth. Let me turn next to what his opponents mean 
when they say that to be true, our thoughts must 'corre- 

The vulgar notion of correspondence here is that the 
thoughts must copy the reality cognitio fit per assimi- 
liationem cogniti et cognoscentis; and philosophy, with- 
out having ever fairly sat down to the question, seems to 
have instinctively accepted this idea: propositions are 
held true if they copy the eternal thought; terms are held 
true if they copy extra-mental realities. Implicitly, I 
think that the copy-theory has animated most of the crit- 
icisms that have been made on humanism. 

A priori, however, it is not self-evident that the sole 
business of our mind with, realities should be to copy 
them. Let my reader suppose himself to constitute for a 
time all the reality there is in the universe, and then to 


receive the announcement that another being is to be 
created who shall know him truly. How will he represent 
the knowing in advance? What will he hope it to be? I 
doubt extremely whether it could ever occur to him to 
fancy it as a mere copying. Of what use to him would an 
imperfect second edition of himself in the new comer's 
interior be? It would seem pure waste of a propitious 
opportunity. The demand would more probably be for 
something absolutely new. The reader would conceive 
the knowing humanistically, 'the new comer/ he would 
say, 'must take account of my presence by reacting on it 
in such a way that good would accrue to us both. If copy- 
ing be requisite to that end, let there be copying; other- 
wise not/ The essence in any case would not be the 
copying, but the enrichment of the previous world. 

I read the other day, in a book of Professor Eucken's, 
a phrase, 'Die erhdhung des vorgefundenen daseins? 
which seems to be pertinent here. Why may not 
thought's mission be to increase and elevate, rather than 
simply to imitate and reduplicate, existence? No one 
who has read Lotze can fail to remember his striking 
comment on the ordinary view of the secondary qualities 
of matter, which brands them as 'illusory' because they 
copy nothing in the thing. The notion of a world com- 
plete in itself, to which thought comes as a passive mir- 
ror, adding nothing to fact, Lotze says is irrational. 
Rather is thought itself a most momentous part of fact, 
and the whole mission of the pre-existing and insufficient 
world of matter may simply be to provoke thought to 
produce its far more precious supplement. 

^Knowing/ in short, may, for aught we can see before- 
hand to the contrary, be only one way of getting into 
fruitful relations with reality, whether copying be one of 
the relations or not. 

It is easy to see from what special type of knowing 
the copy-theory arose. In our dealings with natural phe- 

Humanism and Truth 245 

nomena the great point is to be able to foretell. Fore- 
telling, according to such a writer as Spencer, is the 
whole meaning of intelligence. When Spencer's law of 
intelligence' says that inner and outer relations must 
'correspond,' it means that the distribution of terms in 
our inner time-scheme and space-scheme must be an ex- 
act copy of the distribution in real time and space of 
the real terms. In strict theory the mental terms them- 
selves need not answer to the real terms in the sense of 
severally copying them, symbolic mental terms being 
enough, if only the real dates and places be copied. But 
in our ordinary life the mental terms are images and 
the real ones are sensations, and the images so often copy 
the sensations, that we easily take copying of terms as 
well as of relations to be the natural significance of 
knowing. Meanwhile much, even of this common de- 
scriptive truth, is couched in verbal symbols. If our sym- 
bols fit the world, in the sense of determining our 
expectations rightly, they may even be the better for not 
copying its terms. 

It seems obvious that the pragmatic account of all this 
routine of phenomenal knowledge is accurate. Truth 
here is a relation, not of our ideas to non-human reali- 
ties, but of conceptual parts of our experience to sensa- 
tional parts. Those thoughts are true which guide us to 
beneficial interaction with sensible particulars as they oc- 
cur, whether they copy these in advance or not. 

From the frequency of copying in the knowledge of 
phenomenal fact, copying has been supposed to be the 
essence of truth in matters rational also. Geometry and 
logic, it has been supposed, must copy archetypal 
thoughts in the Creator. But in these abstract spheres 
there is no need of assuming archetypes. The mind is 
free to carve so many figures out of space, to make so 
many numerical collections, to frame so many classes and 


series, and it can analyze and compare so endlessly, that 
the very superabundance of the resulting ideas makes us 
doubt the 'objective' pre-existence of their models. It 
would be plainly wrong to suppose a God whose thought 
consecrated rectangular but not polar co-ordinates, or 
Jevons's notation but not Boole's. Yet if, on the other 
hand, we assume God to have thought in advance of 
every possible flight of human fancy in these directions, 
his mind becomes too much like a Hindoo idol with 
three heads, eight arms and six breasts, too much made 
up of superfoetation and redundancy for us to wish to 
copy it, and the whole notion of copying tends to evap- 
orate from these sciences. Their objects can be better 
interpreted as being created step by step by men, as fast 
as they successively conceive them. 

If now it be asked how, if triangles, squares, square 
roots, genera, and the like, are but improvised human 
'artefacts,' their properties and relations can be so 
promptly known to be 'eternal,' the humanistic answer 
is easy. If triangles and genera are of our own production 
we can keep them invariant. We can make them 'time- 
less' by expressly decreeing that on the things we mean 
time shall exert no altering effect, that they are inten- 
tionally and it may be fictitiously abstracted from every 
corrupting real associate and condition. But relations 
between invariant objects will themselves be invariant. 
Such relations cannot be happenings, for by hypothesis 
nothing shall happen to the objects. I have tried to 
show in the last chapter of my Principles of Psychology 5 
that they can only be relations of comparison. No one 
so far seems to have noticed my suggestion, and I am 
too ignorant of the development of mathematics to feel 
very confident of my own view. But if it were correct 
it would solve the difficulty perfectly. Relations of com- 
parison are matters of direct inspection. As soon as 
mental objects are mentally compared, they are per- 

Humanism and Truth 247 

ceived to be either like or unlike. But once the same, 
always the same, once different, always different, under 
these timeless conditions. Which is as much as to say that 
truths concerning these man-made objects are necessary 
and eternal. We can change our conclusions only by 
changing our data first. 

The whole fabric of the a priori sciences can thus 
be treated as a man-made product. As Locke long ago 
pointed out, these sciences have no immediate connec- 
tion with fact. Only if a fact can be humanized by being 
identified with any of these ideal objects, is what was 
true of the objects now true also of the facts. The truth 
itself meanwhile was originally a copy of nothing; it was 
only a relation directly perceived to obtain between two 
artificial mental things. 6 

We may now glance at some special types of knowing, 
so as to see better whether the humanistic account fits. 
On the mathematical and logical types we need not 
enlarge further, nor need we return at much length to 
the case of our descriptive knowledge of the course of 
nature. So far as this involves anticipation, tho that 
may mean copying, it need, as we saw, mean little more 
than 'getting ready* in advance. But with many distant 
and future objects, our practical relations are to the last 
degree potential and remote. In no sense can we now get 
ready for the arrest of the earth's revolution by the tidal 
brake, for instance; and with the past, tho we suppose 
ourselves to know it truly, we have no practical rela- 
tions at all. It is obvious that, altho interests strictly 
practical have been the original starting-point of our 
search for true phenomenal descriptions, yet an intrinsic 
interest in the bare describing function has grown up. 
We wish accounts that shall be true, whether they bring 
collateral profit or not. The primitive function has de- 
veloped its demand for mere exercise. This theoretic 


curiosity seems to be the characteristically human dif- 
ferentia, and humanism recognizes its enormous scope. 
A true idea now means not only one that prepares us for 
an actual perception. It means also one that might prepare 
us for a merely possible perception, or one that, if spoken, 
would suggest possible perceptions to others, or suggest 
actual perceptions which the speaker cannot share. The 
ensemble of perceptions thus thought of as either actual 
or possible form a system which it is obviously advanta- 
geous to us to get into a stable and consistent shape; and 
here it is that the common-sense notion of permanent 
beings finds triumphant use. Beings acting outside of 
the thinker explain, not only his actual perceptions, past 
and future, but his possible perceptions and those of 
every one else. Accordingly they gratify our theoretic 
need in a supremely beautiful way. We pass from our 
immediate actual through them into the foreign and the 
potential, and back again into the future actual, account- 
ing for innumerable particulars by a single cause. As in 
those circular panoramas, where a real foreground of 
dirt, grass, bushes, rocks and a broken-down cannon is 
enveloped by a canvas picture of sky and earth and of a 
raging battle, continuing the foreground so cunningly 
that the spectator can detect no joint; so these concep- 
tual objects, added to our present perceptual reality, fuse 
with it into the whole universe of our belief. In spite 
of all berkeleyan criticism, we do not doubt that they 
are really there. Tho our discovery of any one of them 
may only date from now, we unhesitatingly say that it 
not only is 9 but was there, if, by so saying, the past ap- 
pears connected more consistently with what we feel the 
present to be. This is historic truth. Moses wrote the 
Pentateuch, we think, because if he didn't, all our reli- 
gious habits will have to be undone. Julius Caesar was 
real, or we can never listen to history again. Trilobites 
were once alive, or all our thought about the strata is 

Humanism and Truth 249 

at sea. Radium, discovered only yesterday, must always 
have existed, or its analogy with other natural elements, 
which are permanent, fails. In all this, it is but one 
portion of our beliefs reacting on another so as to yield 
the most satisfactory total state of mind. That state of 
mind, we say, sees truth, and the content of its deliver- 
ances we believe. 

Of course, if you take the satisfactoriness concretely, 
as something felt by you now, and if, by truth, you mean 
truth taken abstractly and verified in the long run, you 
cannot make them equate, for it is notorious that the 
temporarily satisfactory is often false. Yet at each and 
every concrete moment, truth for each man is what that 
man 'troweth' at that moment with the maximum of 
satisfaction to himself; and similarly, abstract truth, 
truth verified by the long run, and abstract satisfactori- 
ness, long-run satisfactoriness, coincide. If, in short, we 
compare concrete with concrete and abstract with ab- 
stract, the true and the satisfactory do mean the same 
thing. I suspect that a certain muddling of matters 
hereabouts is what makes the general philosophic public 
so impervious to humanism's claims. 

The fundamental fact about our experience is that it 
is a process of change. For the 'trower' at any moment, 
truth, like the visible area round a man walking in a 
fog, or like what George Eliot calls 'the wall of dark 
seen by small fishes' eyes that pierce a span in the wide 
Ocean/ is an objective field which the next moment 
enlarges and of which it is the critic, and which then 
either suffers alteration or is continued unchanged. The 
critic sees both the first trower s truth and his own truth, 
compares them with each other, and verifies or confutes. 
His field of view is the reality independent of that earlier 
trower's thinking with which that thinking ought to cor- 
respond. But the critic is himself only a trower; and if 
the whole process of experience should terminate at that 


instant, there would be no otherwise known independent 
reality with which his thought might be compared. 

The immediate in experience is always provisionally 
in this situation. The humanism, for instance, which I 
see and try so hard to defend, is the completest truth 
attained from my point of view up to date. But, owing 
to the fact that all experience is a process, no point of 
view can ever be the last one. Every one is insufficient 
and off its balance, and responsible to later points of 
view than itself. You, occupying some of these later 
points in your own person, and believing in the reality 
of others, will not agree that my point of view sees truth 
positive, truth timeless, truth that counts, unless they 
verify and confirm what it sees. 

You generalize this by saying that any opinion, how- 
ever satisfactory, can count positively and absolutely as 
true only so far as it agrees with a standard beyond itself; 
and if you then forget that this standard perpetually 
grows up endogenously inside the web of the experi- 
ences, you may carelessly go on to say that what distrib- 
utively holds of each experience, holds also collectively 
of all experience, and that experience as such and in its 
totality owes whatever truth it may be possessed-of to its 
correspondence with absolute realities outside of its own 
being. This evidently is the popular and traditional posi- 
tion. From the fact that finite experiences must draw 
support from one another, philosophers pass to the no- 
tion that experience uberhaupt must need an absolute 
support. The denial of such a notion by humanism lies 
probably at the root of most of the dislike which it 

But is this not the globe, the elephant and the tortoise 
over again? Must not something end by supporting itself? 
Humanism is willing to let finite experience be self- 
supporting. Somewhere being must immediately breast 
nonentity. Why may not the advancing front of experi- 

Humanism and Truth 251 

ence, carrying its immanent satisfactions and dissatisfac- 
tions, cut against the black inane as the luminous orb of 
the moon cuts the caerulean abyss? Why should any- 
where the world be absolutely fixed and finished? And if 
reality genuinely grows, why may it not grow in these 
very determinations which here and now are made? 

In point of fact it actually seems to grow by our men- 
tal determinations, be these never so 'true/ Take the 
'great bear' or 'dipper* constellation in the heavens. We 
call it by that name, we count the stars and call them 
seven, we say they were seven before they were counted, 
and we say that whether any one had ever noted the fact 
or not, the dim resemblance to a long-tailed (or long- 
necked?) animal was always truly there. But what do 
we mean by this projection into past eternity of recent 
human ways of thinking? Did an 'absolute' thinker ac- 
tually do the counting, tell off the stars upon his standing 
number-tally, and make the bear-comparison, silly as the 
latter is? Were they explicitly seven, explicitly bear- 
like, before the human witness came? Surely nothing in 
the truth of the attributions drives us to think this. They 
were only implicitly or virtually what we call them, and 
we human witnesses first explicated them and made them 
'real.' A fact virtually pre-exists when every condition of 
its realization save one is already there. In this case the 
condition lacking is the act of the counting and com- 
paring mind. But the stars (once the mind considers 
them) themselves dictate the result. The counting in no 
wise modifies their previous nature, and, they being what 
and where they are, the count cannot fall out differently. 
It could then always be made. Never could the number 
seven be questioned, if the question once were raised. 

We have here a quasi-paradox. Undeniably something 
comes by the counting that was not there before. And yet 
that something was always true. In one sense you create 


it, and in another sense you find it You have to treat 
your count as being true beforehand, the moment you 
come to treat the matter at all. 

Our stellar attributes must always be called true, then; 
yet none the less are they genuine additions made by our 
intellect to the world of fact. Not additions of conscious- 
ness only, but additions of 'content/ They copy nothing 
that pre-existed, yet they agree with what pre-existed, fit 
it, amplify it, relate and connect it with a 'wain/ a 
number-tally, or what not, and build it out. It seems to 
me that humanism is the only theory that builds this case 
out in the good direction, and this case stands for in- 
numerable other lands of case. In all such cases, odd as 
it may sound, our judgment may actually be said to 
retroact and to enrich the past. 

Our judgments at any rate change the character of 
future reality by the acts to which they lead. Where 
these acts are acts expressive of trust, trust, e. g., that a 
man is honest, that our health is good enough, or that 
we can make a successful effort, which acts may be a 
needed antecedent of the trusted things becoming true, 
Professor Taylor says 7 that our trust is at any rate untrue 
when it is made, i. e. 9 before the action; and I seem to 
remember that he disposes of anything like a faith in the 
general excellence of the universe (making the faithful 
person's part in it at any rate more excellent) as a lie 
in the soul/ But the pathos of this expression should not 
blind us to the complication of the facts. I doubt whether 
Professor Taylor would himself be in favor of practically 
handling trusters of these kinds as liars. Future and pres- 
ent really mix in such emergencies, and one can always 
escape lies in them by using hypothetic forms. But Mr. 
Taylor's attitude suggests such absurd possibilities of 
practice that it seems to me to illustrate beautifully how 
self -stultifying the conception of a truth that shall merely 
register a standing fixture may become. Theoretic truth, 

Humanism and Truth 253 

truth of passive copying, sought in the sole interests 
of copying as such, not because copying is good for some- 
thing, but because copying ought schlechthin to be, 
seems, if you look at it coldly, to be an almost preposter- 
ous ideal. Why should the universe, existing in itself, also 
exist in copies? How can it be copied in the solidity of its 
objective fulness? And even if it could, what would the 
motive be? 'Even the hairs of your head are numbered.' 
Doubtless they are, virtually; but why, as an absolute 
proposition, ought the number to become copied and 
known? Surely knowing is only one way of interacting 
with reality and adding to its effect. 

The opponent here will ask: 'Has not the knowing of 
truth any substantive value on its own account, apart 
from the collateral advantages it may bring? And if you 
allow theoretic satisfactions to exist at all, do they not 
crowd the collateral satisfactions out of house and home, 
and must not pragmatism go into bankruptcy, if she ad- 
mits them at all?* The destructive force of such talk dis- 
appears as soon as we use words concretely instead of 
abstractly, and ask, in our quality of good pragmatists, 
just what the famous theoretic needs are known as and 
in what the intellectual satisfactions consist. 

Are they not all mere matters of consistency and em- 
phatically not of consistency between an absolute reality 
and the mind's copies of it, but of actually felt consist- 
ency among judgments, objects, and habits of reacting, 
in the mind's own experienceable world? And are not 
both our need of such consistency and our pleasure in 
it conceivable as outcomes of the natural fact that we 
are beings that do develop mental habits habit itself 
proving adaptively beneficial in an environment where 
the same objects, or the same kinds of objects, recur and 
follow law'? If this were so, what would have come first 
would have been the collateral profits of habit as such, 
and the theoretic life would have grown up in aid of 


these. In point of fact, this seems to have been the 
probable case. At life's origin, any present perception 
may have been "true* if such a word could then be ap- 
plicable. Later, when reactions became organized, the 
reactions became 'true' whenever expectation was ful- 
filled by them. Otherwise they were 'false' or 'mistaken* 
reactions. But the same class of objects needs the same 
kind of reaction, so the impulse to react consistently 
must gradually have been established, and a disappoint- 
ment felt whenever the results frustrated expectation. 
Here is a perfectly plausible germ for all our higher 
consistencies. Nowadays, if an object claims from us a 
reaction of the kind habitually accorded only to the op- 
posite class of objects, our mental machinery refuses to 
run smoothly. The situation is intellectually unsatis- 

Theoretic truth thus falls within the mind, being the 
accord of some of its processes and objects with other 
processes and objects 'accord' consisting here in well- 
definable relations. So long as the satisfaction of feeling 
such an accord is denied us, whatever collateral profits 
may seem to inure from what we believe in are but as 
dust in the balance provided always that we are highly 
organized intellectually, which the majority of us are 
not. The amount of accord which satisfies most men and 
women is merely the absence of violent clash between 
their usual thoughts and statements and the limited 
sphere of sense-perceptions in which their lives are cast. 
The theoretic truth that most of us think we 'ought' to 
attain to is thus the possession of a set of predicates 
that do not explicitly contradict their subjects. We pre- 
serve it as often as not by leaving other predicates and 
subjects out. 

In some men theory is a passion, just as music is in 
others. The form of inner consistency is pursued far 
beyond the line at which collateral profits stop. Such 

Humanism and Truth 255 

men systematize and classify and schematize and make 
synoptical tables and invent ideal objects for the pure 
love of unifying. Too often the results, glowing with 
'truth' for the inventors, seem pathetically personal and 
artificial to bystanders. Which is as much as to say that 
the purely theoretic criterion of truth can leave us in 
the lurch as easily as any other criterion, and that the 
absolutists, for all their pretensions, are 'in the same 
boat* concretely with those whom they attack. 

I am well aware that this paper has been rambling in 
the extreme. But the whole subject is inductive, and 
sharp logic is hardly yet in order. My great trammel has 
been the non-existence of any definitely stated alterna- 
tive on my opponents' part. It may conduce to clearness 
if I recapitulate, in closing, what I conceive the main 
points of humanism to be. They are these: 

1. An experience, perceptual or conceptual, must con- 
form to reality in order to be true. 

2. By 'reality' humanism means nothing more than 
the other conceptual or perceptual experiences with 
which a given present experience may find itself in point 
of fact mixed up. 8 

3. By 'conforming/ humanism means taking account- 
of in such a way as to gain any intellectually and prac- 
tically satisfactory result. 

4. To 'take account-of and to be 'satisfactory' are 
terms that admit of no definition, so many are the ways 
in which these requirements can practically be worked 

5. Vaguely and in general, we take account of a reality 
by preserving it in as unmodified a form as possible. 
But, to be then satisfactory, it must not contradict other 
realities outside of it which claim also to be preserved. 
That we must preserve all the experience we can and 
minimize contradiction in what we preserve, is about all 
that can be said in advance. 


6. The truth which the conforming experience em- 
bodies may be a positive addition to the previous reality, 
and later judgments may have to conform to it. Yet, 
virtually at least, it may have been true previously. 
Pragmatically, virtual and actual truth mean the same 
thing: the possibility of only one answer, when once the 
question is raised. 



1 Morrison I. Swift, Human Submission, Part Second, Philadelphia 
Liberty Press, 1905, pp. 4-10. 


translated in the Revue Philosophique for January, 1879 (vol. 

1 'Theorie und Praxis/ Zeitsch. des Oesterreichischen Ingenieur u. 
Architecten-Vereines, 1905, Nr. 4 u. 6. I find a stall more radical 
pragmatism than Ostwald's m an address by Professor W. S. 
Franklin: "I think that the sickliest notion of physics, even if a 
student gets it, is that it is 'the science of masses, molecules, and 
the ether/ And I think that the healthiest notion, even if a student 
does not wholly get it, is that physics is the science of the ways of 
taking hold of bodies and pushing them!" (Science, January a, 


1 The Foundations of Belief, p. 30. 


1 Compare A. Bellanger: Les concepts de Cause, et Tactivitt inten- 
tionelle de I'Esprit. Paris, Alcan, 1905, p. 79 ff. 

8 The Conception of God, New York, 1897, p. zgz. 

* Compare on the Ultimate, Mr. Schiller's essay "Activity and Sub- 
stance/' in his book entitled Humanism, p. 204. 

258 Notes 

1 The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, 1905, P- 59- 


1 A. E. Taylor, Philosophical Review, vol. xiv, p. 288. 
*H. Rickert, Der Gegenstand der Erkenntniss, chapter on 'Die 

* I am not forgetting that Professor Kickert long ago gave up the 
whole notion of truth being founded on agreement with reality. 
Reality according to him, is whatever agrees with truth, and truth 
is founded solely on our primal duty. This fantastic flight, together 
with Mr. Joachim's candid confession of failure in his book The 
Nature of Truth, seems to me to mark the bankruptcy of rational- 
ism when dealing with this subject. Rickert deals witih part of the 
pragmatistic position under the head of what he calls 'Relativ- 
ismus/ I can not discuss his text here. Suffice it to say that his ar- 
gumentation in that chapter is so feeble as to seem almost incred- 
ible in so generally able a writer. 


1 Personal Idealism, p. 60. 

*Mr. Taylor in his Elements of Metaphysics uses this excellent 
pragmatic definition. 


1 But 'verifiability,' I add, *is as good as verification. For one truth- 
process completed, there are a million in our lives that function 
in [the] state of nascency. They lead us towards direct verifica- 
tion; lead us into the surroundings of the object they envisage; 
and then, if everything runs on harmoniously, we are so sure that 
verification is possible that we omit it, and are usually justified by 
all that happens/ 

* Op. cit., p. 75. 

* It gives me pleasure to welcome Professor Carveth Read into the 
pragmatistic church, so far as his epistemology goes. See his vigor- 
ous book, The Metaphysics of Nature, ad Edition, Appendix A. 
(London, Black, 1908.) The work What is Reality? by Francis 
Howe Johnson (Boston, 1891), of which I make the acquaintance 
only while correcting these proofs, contains some striking anticipa- 

Notes 259 

tions of the later pragmatist view. The Psychology of Thinking, by 
Irving E. Miller (New York, Macmillan Co., 1909), which has 
just appeared, is one of the most convincing pragmatist documents 
yet published, tho it does not use the word 'pragmatism' at all. 
While I am making references, I cannot refrain from inserting one 
to the extraordinarily acute article by H. V. Knox, in the Quarterly 
Review for April, 1909. 


1 Read before the Aristotelian Society, December i, 1884, and first 
published in Mind, vol. x (1885). This, and the following ar- 
ticles have received a very slight verbal revision, consisting mostly 
in the omission of redundancy. 

9 "The Relativity of Knowledge/ held in this sense, is, it may be 
observed in passing, one of the oddest of philosophic supersti- 
tions. Whatever facts may be cited in its favor are due to the 
properties of nerve-tissue, which may be exhausted by too pro- 
longed an excitement. Patients with neuralgias that last unremit- 
tingly for days can, however, assure us that the limits of this 
nerve-law are pretty widely drawn. But if we physically could get 
a feeling that should last eternally unchanged, what atom of 
logical or psychological argument is there to prove that it would 
not be felt as long as it lasted, and felt for just what it is, all that 
time? The reason for the opposite prejudice seems to be our re- 
luctance to think that so stupid a thing as such a feeling would 
necessarily be, should be allowed to fill eternity with its presence. 
An interminable acquaintance, leading to no knowledge-a&otrt, 
such would be its condition. 

* See, for example, Green's Introduction to Hume's Treatise of 
Human Nature, p. 36. 

* If A enters and B exclaims, 'Didn't you see my brother on the 
stairs?' we all hold that A may answer, 'I saw him, but didn't 
know he was your brother'; ignorance of brotherhood not abolish- 
ing power to see But those who, on account of the unrelatedness 
of the first facts with which we become acquainted, deny them to 
be Toiown' to us, ought in consistency to maintain that if A did 
not perceive the relationship of the man on the stairs to B, it was 
impossible he should have noticed him at all. 

6 It seems odd to call so important a function accidental, but I do 
not see how we can mend the matter. Just as, if we start with 
the reality and ask how it may come to be known, we can only 
reply by invoking a feeling which shall reconstruct it in its own 
more private fashion; so, if we start with the feeling and ask how 
it may come to know, we can only reply by invoking a reality 
which shall reconstruct it in its own more public fashion. In either 
case, however, the datum we start with remains just what it was. 

260 Notes 

One may easily get lost in verbal mysteries about the difference 
between quality of feeling and feeling of quality, between re- 
ceiving and reconstructing the knowledge of a reality. But at the 
end we must confess that the notion of real cognition involves an 
tmmediated dualism of the knower and the known. See Bowne's 
Metaphysics, New York, 1882, pp. 403-412, and various passages 
in Lotze, e. g., Logic 308. ['Unmediated' is a bad word to 
have used. 1909 ] 

* The thoroughgoing objector might, it is true, still return to the 
charge, and, granting a dream which should completely mirror 
the real universe, and all the actions dreamed in which should be 
instantly matched by duplicate actions in this universe, still insist 
that this is nothing more than harmony, and that it is as far as 
ever from being made clear whether the dream-world refers to 
that other world, all of whose details it so closely copies. This ob- 
jection leads deep into metaphysics. I do not impugn its impor- 
tance, and justice obliges me to say that but for the teachings of 
my colleague, Dr. Josiah Royce, I should neither have grasped its 
full force nor made my own practical and psychological point of 
view as clear to myself as it is. On this occasion I prefer to stick 
steadfastly to that point of view; but I hope that Dr. Royce's more 
fundamental criticism of the function of cognition may ere long 
see the light. [I referred in this note to Royce's Religious aspect of 
philosophy, then about to be published. This powerful book main- 
tained that the notion of referring involved that of an inclusive 
mind that shall own both the real q and the mental q, and use the 
latter expressly as a representative symbol of the former. At the 
time I could not refute this transcendentalist opinion. Later, 
largely through the influence of Professor D. S. Miller (see his es- 
say *The meaning of truth and error,* in the Philosophical Review 
for 1893, vol. 2, p. 403 ) I came to see that any definitely experi- 
enceable workings would serve as intermediaries quite as well as 
the absolute mind's intentions would.] 

T That is, there is no real Ivanhoe," not even the one in Sir Walter 
Scott's mind as he was writing the story. That one is only the first 
one of the Ivanhoe-solipsisms. It is quite true we can make it the 
real Ivanhoe if we like, and then say that the other Ivanhoes know 
it or do not know it, according as they refer to and resemble it or 
no. This is done by bringing in Sir Walter Scott himself as the au- 
thor of the real Ivanhoe, and so making a complex object of both. 
This object, however, is not a story pure and simple. It has dy- 
namic relations with the world common to the experience of all 
readers. Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe got itself printed in volumes 
which we all can handle, and to any one of which we can refer to 
see which of our versions be the true one, i. e. 9 the original one of 
Scott himself. We can see the manuscript; in short we can get 
back to the Ivanhoe in Scott's mind by many an avenue and chan- 
nel of this real world of our experience, a thing we can by no 

Notes 261 

means do with, either the Ivanhoe or the Rebecca, either the Tem- 
plar or the Isaac of York, of the story taken simply as such, and 
detached from the conditions of its production. Everywhere, then, 
we have the same test: can we pass continuously from two objects 
in two minds to a third object which seems to be in both minds, 
because each mind feels every modification imprinted on it by the 
other? If so, the first two objects named are derivatives, to say the 
least, from the same third object, and may be held, if they resem- 
ble each other, to refer to one and the same reality. 
Among such errors are those cases in which our feeling operates 
on a reality which it does partially resemble, and yet does not 
intend: as for instance, when I take up your umbrella, meaning 
to take my own. I cannot be said here either to know your um- 
brella, or my own, which latter my feeling more completely re- 
sembles. I am mistaking them both, misrepresenting their context, 

We have spoken in the text as if the critic were necessarily one 
mind, and the feeling criticised another. But the criticised feeling 
and its critic may be earlier and later feelings of the same mind, 
and here it might seem that we could dispense with the notion of 
operating, to prove that critic and criticised are referring to and 
meaning to represent the same. We think we see our past feelings 
directly, and know what they refer to without appeal. At the 
worst, we can always fix the intention of our present feeling and 
make it refer to the same reality to which any one of our past 
feelings may have referred. So we need no "operating* here, to 
make sure that the feeling and its critic mean the same real q. 
Well, all the better if this is sol We have covered the more com- 
plex and difficult case in our text, and we may let this easier one 
go. The main thing at present is to stick to practical psychology, 
and ignore metaphysical difficulties. 

One more remark. Our formula contains, it will be observed, 
nothing to correspond to the great principle of cognition laid 
down by Professor Ferrier in his Institutes of Metaphysic and 
apparently adopted by all the followers of Fichte, the principle, 
namely, that for knowledge to be constituted there must be 
knowledge of the knowing mind along with whatever else is 
known: not q, as we have supposed, but q plus myselj, must be 
the least I can know. It is certain that the common sense of man- 
kind never dreams of using any such principle when it tries to 
discriminate between conscious states that are knowledge and 
conscious states that are not. So that Ferrier's principle, if it have 
any relevancy at all, must have relevancy to the metaphysical 
possibility of consciousness at large, and not to the practically 
recognized constitution of cognitive consciousness. We may there- 
fore pass it by without further notice here. 
Is an incomplete 'thought about* that reality, that reality is its 
'topic,' etc. 

262 Notes 

10 Though both might terminate in the same thing and be incom- 
plete thoughts 'about' it. 

u The difference between Idealism and Realism is immaterial here. 
What is said in the text is consistent with either theory. A law 
by which my percept shall change yours directly is no more mys- 
terious than a law by which it shall first change a physical reality, 
and then the reality change yours. In either case you and I seem 
fcoit into a continuous world, and not to form a pair of solipsisms. 

u There is no distinction of meaning so fine as to consist m anything 
but a possible difference of practice. ... It appears, then, that 
the rule for attaining the [highest] grade of clearness of appre- 
hension is as follows: Consider what effects, which might con- 
ceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our 
conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the 
whole of our conception of the object/ Charles S. Peirce: 'How 
to make our Ideas clear/ in Popular Science Monthly, New York, 
January, 1878, p. 293. 


1 Extracts from a presidential address before the American Psycho- 
logical Association, published in the Psychological Review, vol. ii, 
p. 105 (1895). 

* A stone in one field may 'fit,' we say, a hole in another field. But 
the relation of 'fitting/ so long as no one carries the stone to the 
hole and drops it in, is only one name for the fact that such an act 
may happen. Similarly with the knowing of the tigers here and 
now. It is only an anticipatory name for a further associative and 
terminative process that may occur. 

* See Dr. Miller's articles on Truth and Error, and on Content and 
Function, in the Philosophical Review, July, 1893, and Nov., 1895. 

4 What is meant by this is that 'the experience' can be referred to 
either of two great associative systems, that of the experiencer's 


mental history, or that of the experienced facts of the world. Of 
both of these systems it forms part, and may be regarded, indeed, 
as one of their points of intersection. One might let a vertical line 

Notes 263 

stand for the mental history; but the same object, O, appears also 
in the mental history of different persons, represented by the other 
vertical lines. It thus ceases to be the private property of one ex- 
perience, and becomes so to speak, a shared or public thing. We 
can track its outer history in this way, and represent it by the 
horizontal line. [It is also known representatively at other points 
of the vertical lines, or intuitively there again, so that the line of its 
outer history would have to be looped and wandering, but I make 
it straight for simplicity's sake.] In any case, however, it is the 
same stuff that figures in all the sets of lines. 

s [The reader will observe that the text is written from the point of 
view of naif realism or common sense, and avoids raising the 
idealistic controversy.] 


1 Reprinted, with slight verbal revision, from Mind, voL xiii, N. S , 
p. 457 (October, 1904). A couple of interpolations from another 
article in Mind, 'Humanism and truth once more/ in vol. xiv, have 
been made. 

I ['Practical* in the sense of particular, of course, not in the sense 
that the consequences may not be mental as well as physical.] 

I 1 know of no 'mere* pragmatist, if mereness here means, as it seems 
to, the denial of all concreteness to the pragmatist's thought. 

1 [I cannot forbear quoting as an illustration of the contrast between 
humanist and rationalist tempers of mind, in a sphere remote from 
philosophy, these remarks on the Dreyfus 'affaire/ written by one 
who assuredly had never heard of humanism or pragmatism. 'Au- 
tant que la Revolution, TAffaire" est d&ormais une de nos 
"origines." Si elle n'a pas fait ouvrir le gouffre, c'est elle du moins 
qui a rendu patent et visible le long travail souterrain qui, silen- 
cieusement, avait prepare" la separation entre nos deux camps 
d'aujourd'hui, pour ^carter enfin, d'un coup soudain, la France 
des traditionalistes ( poseurs de principes, chercheurs dunite, con- 
structeurs de systemes a priori) et la France eprise du fait positif 
et de libre examen; la France r&volutionnaire et romantique si 
Ton veut, celle qui met tres haut Tindividu, qui ne veut pas qu'un 
juste p&nsse, fftt-ce pour sauver la nation, et qui cherche la v&rit6 
dans toutes ses parties aussi bien que dans une vue d'ensemble. 
. . . Duclaux ne pouvait pas concevoir qu'on pr<ferat quelque 
chose a la verit. Mais il voyait autour de lui de fort honn&es gens 
qui, mettant en balance la vie d'un homme et la raison d'fitat, lui 
avouaient de quel poids lger ils jugeaient une simple existence in- 
dividuelle, pour innocente qu'elle rut C'etaient des classiques, des 
gens a qui I' ensemble seul imported La Vie de Emile Duclaux, 
par Mme. Em. D., Laval, 1906, pp. 343, 247-24$.] 

264 Notes 

5 Vol.ii, pp. 641 ff. 

6 [Mental things which are realities of course within the mental 

7 In an article criticising Pragmatism ( as he conceives it ) in the 
McGill University Quarterly published at Montreal, for May, 1904. 

8 This is meant merely to exclude reality of an 'unknowable' sort, 
of which no account in either perceptual or conceptual terms can 
be given. It includes of course any amount of empirical reality 
independent of the knower. Pragmatism is thus 'epistemologically* 
realistic in its account 


Absolute, the, 26, 56, 99, iO2f, 
174, 187, 192, 198, 240; its 
barrenness, 56f ; its value, 581, 
183; its macceptability, 60; vs. 
the 'Ultimate, 106 

Absolute edition of the world, 

Absolute truth, 146, 240:6?, 243, 
250. See also Truth 

Abstract ideas, 341*, 127!, 102, 
115, 138, i7if, 246f, 249 

Abstractness as a vice in philos- 
ophizing, 26, 32, 34, 45, 54f, 
150, 170 

Accountability, 82 

Additions, human, to the given, 
i64f, 185$, 233, 237ff, 
246, 252 

Agreement with reality, 

Ancestral discoveries, 114, i2of 

Belief. See Truth 
BERGSON, 163, 237 

BOWNE, 25, 260 

BRADLEY, 32, 98, 162, 167, 229, 
230, 237, 239 

CAIRD, 25, 161 

Caprice, excluded by pragma- 
tism, 139, 151, i67f 

CARUS, 203 

Categories, 1145, 121, 126, 163, 

I99f 235, 236 
Cause, 95, 107, 
Claim, truth as a, i48f 
Clash of beliefs, 59f 
Classroom philosophy, 27 
CLERK-MAXWELL, 131, 142 
Cognition. See Knowledge 
Common sense, Lecture V; de^ 
fined, 114; its "categories/ 
173; a definite stage in evo- 
lution; result of successive 
discoveries, 114, I2of 
Concepts, their use, I27f, 115 


Continuity, 93f 

Copy-theory of truth, i3af, 140, 
152, 200, 2i2ff, 43ff 250, 

Corridor-theory, 47 
Creative functions of human 
mind. See Additions, human 
'Critical' level of thought, 122, 


Critical philosophy, 123 
Criticisms of pragmatism, 151, 
i67f, i73f. Preface to the 
Meaning of Truth, passim 

Damned, Leibnitz on the, 28f 
Design in nature, 79-32, 198 


266 Index 

Desire creative of reality, 186 
DEWEY, 49, 52, 59, isiff, 151, 

196, 20if, 224, 23off, 233 
Dilemma of philosophy, Lec- 

ture I, especially, pp. 24-27 
Discourse, universe of, 92, 2O2f, 

its relation to truth, isgf . See 

also Discourse. 
Dog, mind of, n6f 
DUHEM, 49 

9 if, 

Empiricism, 2off, 24 

100; 'radical,' 14, 

also Pragmatism 
Energy, 125, 14 if 
Error, 217, 240, 259 
Escape, philosophies as places 

of, 34 

Eucharist, 67 
EUCKEN, 167, 244 
Experience, 100, 115, 199!", 228, 

234f, 236, 239, 249 

Facts, I7of, 244; empiricism 
holds by them, 22; pragma- 
tism loves them, 54f, ill, 
idealism neglects them, 5$f; 
their relation to truth, 147, 

Fallacy, the sentimentalist's, 149 

Feeling, 35, 2O4ff, content of, 
2o6f, 21 if; quality of, 206, 
211. See Sensation 


FICBTE, 261 

Fitness, 81 


Free-will, problem of, 82f, 198, 
a melioristic doctrine, 84 


Future, hypothesis of world 
without, 7if; of world with, 
74t 252 

GOD, 26, 48, 57, 61, 72, 76-82, 
98, 192, 198, 246, vs. matter 
as a principle, 74!; scholastic 
definition of, 85, supposed 
choice offered us by, 187 

Good, its relation to truth, $8f 

GREEN, 25, 161, 208, 259 

GROTE, 209 


HEGEL, 122 

HERTZ, 237 

HIBBEN, 203 

History of pragmatism, 43f 

HODGSON, 45, 204, 225 

Holidays, moral, 58, 197 

Humanism, Lecture VII, pas- 
sim, especially 159; Huma- 
nism and Truth, passim, 53 
i59ff, i6sff, 230, 237, 241, 

251, 255 
HUME, 69 

Ideals, as creative, 185 
Idealism, 25, 57, 95f, 163, 208, 

213, 262, Berkeleys's, 67f, 

See Absolute 
Identity, personal, 68f; of con- 

tent and object, 228 
Imputabihty, 83 
Influence, gsf 
Instrumental view of truth, 47, 

49, 119, 122, 127, 134 
Intellectualism, 21, 133 
latellectualist, attacks on prag- 

matism, 54; view of truth, 

133, 143, 147> 354 
Interaction of things, 93 


KANT, 115 

Kinds, 96, 106, 119, 138 

Knower, the absolute, 100, 102, 

Knowledge, The Function of 
Cognition, passim, 112; re- 
lated to reality, 2o6f, 244f, 
249f, 253, 264; relativity of, 
207, 249f, 259; varieties of, 
2091, 213, 218, 225, 226f, 
259, 261 

D^ 25 
Law, 'the,' 158; law as a scien- 

tific concept, 48f, 6gf, 119, 

232, 262 
Laws of thought and of nature, 


Laymen in philosophy, 23 


Leveb of thought compared, 

122-126, 253 
LOCKE, 68ff } 247 
Logic, 48, 96f, 166, igof, 246 
LOTZE, 167, 244, 259 

MACH, 49 


Many, the One and the, Lecture 
IV, Manyness co-ordinate 
with oneness, 95 

Materialism defined, 6gf 

Matter, 61, 235; Berkeley on, 
67f; Spencer on its supposed 
crassness, 70; os. God, as a 
principle, 72-78 

Meaning, 72, 174, 177, 210, 
215, 225 

Mechanisms, 80 

Meliorism, 84, 89, 185 

Merit, 84 

Method, the pragmatic, 42, 4$f 


MILLER, D. S., 227, 260 

MILLER, I. E , 259 

Monism, 179: must be absolute, 
107; religious, i88f; con- 
trasted with pluralism, 168. 
See Unity 

Monistic sentiment, loif, io6f 

Mont-Pele eruption, 81 

Moral holidays, 58, 197 

MYERS, 166 

Mysticism affirms unity, 102! 

Names, 46, 140. See Words 

Naturalism, 24 

New opinions, 50, 52, 113, 146, 

Nominalism, 66 

Old truths, their part in form- 
ing new truth, $of, 113, 161; 
formed out of still older truth, 
53, 113, 161 

One, the, and the Many, Lec- 
ture IV 

Oneness. See Unity 

Optimism, 28, 31, 185 

OSTWALD, 44, 49, *37 

Index 267 

Pantheism, 56 

PAPINI, 47, 61, 107, 167 

Past, 71, 141, 247, 251 


PEERCE, 18, 43, 229, 262 

Perception. See Sensation and 

Personal identity, 68f 

Pessimism, 184 

Philosophies, 36; their contrast 
with reality, 27, 34; their 
shortcomings, 36 

Philosophy, characterized, i7f, 
27f, s6f; and temper of mind, 
27f, 34f, 45f, 54f, i68f, 197; 
seeks variety as well as unity, 
90; gives a world in two edi- 
tions, 51, 172 

Pluralism, 107; noetic, 93, nif, 
180; contrasted with monism, 
168, 189 

POINCARE, 49, 237 

Possibility, ngf, 172, 180, i8af, 

Pragmatism, what it means, 
Lecture II; as a method, 42!, 
45, 47, 229f, 242; as a theory 
of truth, 47f, 20of, 214; as a 
mediator, 33, 61, 177, iQ3f; 
its history, 43; characterized, 
45; its empiricism, 45, 54f, 
147, 167, i72f, 182; its affin- 
ity with Science, 55; its flexi- 
bility, 45, 46f, 61, 107, 167; 
looks towards facts and the 
future, 86; favors pluralism, 
105, 108, 191, its critics, 151- 
its relations with religion, 57f , 
Lecture VIII; accused of 
tough-mindedness, 181; is 
melioristic, 185 

Prediction, 245, 247f 

Principles, rationalism leans on 
them, 22, 46 

Promise, God, a term of, 74, 
78; design, ditto, 82; free 
will, ditto, 85 

Punishment, 69, 83 

Rational] sm, pof, 199$, 243, its 
refined universe, 27, 30; its 
contrast with empiricism, 27, 
33; its temperament, 28, 54f, 

268 Index 

characterized, 45f; its view 
of pragmatism, 54^ 151, i68; 
its view of truth, see Truth 

Rationality, 186, i8/f, 197 

READ, C., 258 

Reality, 166, 170, 2o6f, 238f, 
251, 255; defined, 139^, 16; 
concrete, 32; its three parts, 
160 ; hard to find raw, 162; 
theories of, 163; accepts hu- 
man additions, i6sf; which 
of its determinations are the 
truer? i64f; ready made? or 
still making? 167; exists in 
distributive form, 171; its re- 
lation to desire, 1861 

Refinement of rationalism's uni- 
verse, 28 

Reflection, total, 89 

Relations, 93ff, 981", 105, mf, 
H4f, 138, 160, 199, 237f, 
239, 246, 259 

Religion, 32, 78, 84f, 233; is of 
two types, 25, iSgf, 193 

Religion and pragmatism, Lec- 
ture vin 

Resemblance, 2i2f, 217, 218, 

RlCKERT, 258, 258 

ROYCE, 25, 32, 98, 99, 237, 239, 

Salvation of world, 184 

SCTTTT.LER, 49, 5sf, 59, 13lff, 

151, i59f, i62f, igSf, 202f, 

224, 23of, 233f, 257 
Scholasticism, 66f, 124, I4$f, 

Science, 24, 48f, 76, 123, 223, 

232f, 235 

Selective activity of mind, i6if 
Sensationalism, 21 
Sensations, iSoff, 211, 221, 

222f, 245! 

Sentimentalist fallacy, 149 
Significance. See Meaning 

SlMMEL, 237 

Single-word solutions of world- 
enigma, 157 

Solipsism, 215, 217, 2,2,2, 
Space, 92, 116, 118, 235 

SPENCER, characterized, 37; on 
'matter,' 70, his 'unknowable/ 
75; on foretelling, 245 

Substance, 65; material, 68; 
spiritual, 66, 68, 70, 100; the 
category of, 122. See also 

Summarizing reactions of our 
mind, 35 

SWIFT, 31 

Systematic union of things, 94 

TAYLOR, 240, 252, 258, 258 
Temperament, in philosophy, 
19, 2,8, 46, 168, i97f, 241, 

Tender-mindedness, 22!, I7of; 

in religion, 190 
Theism, 25, 56, 7if, 75 
Theories, as instruments, 47, 72, 
f, 252tt 

127, i6of, 233, 
Thing/ 106, 117, 235, 238f, 

248; a common-sense cate- 

gory, n8f, I2if, I36f; its 

ambiguity, 121, 165 
Time, 93, 116, 118, 121, 235, 

246f, 248f, 251 
Tough-mindedness, 22f, 171 
Transcendence, 152, 20 if, 205, 

2o6f, 212, 226, 228 
Transcendental idealism, 2$f, 

58, 95f, 163 
True, a species of good, 59; 

means expedient thinking, 

Truth, Lecture VI, passim, Hit- 
manism and Truth, passim, 
49f, 59, 126, I3if, i33f, 135, 
145, i46f, 198, 200, 201, 
232f, 234, 237f, 241, 245, 
247f, 254f; Schiller and 
Dewey on, 49f; growth of, 
$of, issf, intellectualist view 
of, i32f, i42f, 148; as the 
Truth, 157, pragmatically it 
means verifiabihty, 133; its 
utility, i34f; its function of 
leading/ 136; is what works, 
52, 6if, i4of, 163, igSf; is 
made, 146; rationalist defini- 
tions of, 142, 148; their weak- 
ness, 60, isof; must be con- 

cretely discussed, 150. Bee 
also Good. 

Truths may clash, 60 ; eternal, 
138. See Old truths 

Ultimate, the, vs. the Absolute, 
106, 111 

Unification iw. Unity, 182 

Unity of things, Lecture IV, 
passim; not philosophy's sole 
quest, gof; pragmatic study 
of, 92, loof, iO4f; of system, 
94; of origin, 95; generic, 96; 
of purpose, 96; aesthetic, 98; 
noetic, 99; affirmed by Hindu 
philosophy, 102; various 
grades of, 105; absolute, 96, 
97, 107 

Universe, Lecture IV, passim, 
iTt 19, 35, ioof 105, us, 
124, 166, 168, 186, 197, 202f; 

Index 269 

of discourse, 92, 202f, of 

feeling, 2051", 228 
Unknowable, the, 75 
Usefulness, of truth, 134; of ab- 

stract concepts, 891, loif, 

115, 138, i7if; of Absolute, 

Ved&nta, 102 

Verification defined, I33f; u& 

venfiability, 137, means lead- 

ing, 141 

Vestigial peculiarities, nsf 
Vision designed, 79 


WHITMAN, 35, 178 

Words, in philosophy, 46, 121, 

World, 106, 168, 171, 197, 2151", 

226. See also Universe 
Worth, of God, 72 


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